Niche.com ranks Missouri 39th in the nation in teacher pay with the average salary being $49,000 a year. It also ranks Missouri 49th for the average starting teacher salary of $31,800.
During Tuesday’s State Board of Education meeting in Jefferson City, Paul Katnik, Assistant Commissioner of Missouri’s Office of Educator Quality, gave a presentation summing up the state’s work to recruit and retain more teachers and boost the quality of educators.
Board member Kim Bailey of Raymore asked if the salary information compares apples to apples.
“I’m not dismissing the reality that we need to increase salaries, but I also recognize that different regions have different costs of living. It’s more expensive to live in New York than it is in Missouri. We might be 49th but we might be 25th in cost of living. Is that calculated at all into this,” asks Bailey.
Katnik points to Niche.com showing all of Missouri’s eight bordering states ranking higher in teacher salaries, except for Arkansas and Oklahoma.
“Not that we advocate that we suddenly pay teachers the same as you pay them in New York or California,” he says. “One of the things I offer for you is all of our neighboring states. What does Kansas pay? What does Iowa pay? What does Illinois pay? What does Arkansas pay? It’s those that we are under. I think that we should pay attention to.”
Katnik says teachers leave the profession for a variety of reasons, including family commitments, low pay, lack of administrative support and challenging working conditions. He says paying teachers more would be felt at school.
“Research shows that high teacher turnover rates in schools negatively impact student achievement, for all the students in the school, not just those in a new teacher’s classroom. These rates are highest in schools serving our low-income students and students of color,” Katnik says.
Missouri has about 70,500 teachers with most of them being white women.
According to Katnik, about 8% of Missouri teachers leave the workforce annually and another 8% change schools. The state’s current hiring rate is 11% and Katnik says a great deal of money is spent filling the vacancies.
Board member Carol Hallquist of Kansas City questioned whether there’s a link between teacher salaries and student achievement. Katnik says merit pay is a debatable practice.
He goes on to cite a Vanderbilt University study saying teacher merit pay for student performance has merit.
“If you take into account two things, that good salaries can create the conditions where teachers will get more performance out of students but you have to pay attention to program design,” he says. “So that means it’s not going to work if it’s not set up well.”
The study says pay-for-performance structures have considerable political and financial support. The federal government has awarded some $2 billion in more than 30 states to design and implement performance pay systems.
According to Melissa Randol with the Missouri School Boards’ Association, Missouri school districts are required by statute to pay teachers on a uniform salary schedule and the state constitution prohibits paying bonuses. State law makes it difficult to have an effective performance pay system.
Katnik says the department is working to retain teachers through preparation and mentoring, providing adequate teaching materials, professional working conditions and teacher leadership. It is also leading an effort to recruit 2-3 students from each Missouri high school. Katnik says the students recruited would ideally match the demographics of the student population in their district with the intent of increasing diversity and the male teacher population. The goal is to boost Missouri’s teacher pipeline by 1,500 to 1,800 next year.
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