Missouri’s average teacher salary is roughly $42,000 – ranking it about 42nd in the nation. The state’s starting teacher pay of $25,000 has not been changed in 15 years.

Compensation for educators is mainly decided at the local level, but for years Missouri has been experiencing a decline in recruiting people to the profession and also keeping them around. The COVID-19 crisis has not helped the situation.

So, the state has been working to put together a plan to address teacher recruitment and retention. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education came up with a proposal in 2019 but the pandemic threw a wrench in all sorts of legislative plans last year.

Missouri Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven

State Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven tells Missourinet boosting pay for K-12 educators remains a top priority for her department. Despite the ongoing pandemic wreaking havoc on the state’s economy, she says the Missouri Board of Education has chosen to still focus on a teacher pay increase.

“What you have seen our teachers do over the last eight months is nothing short of heroic. Hopefully, there will be great recognition of the great work that they have done and an understanding of how important they are to so many of us,” Vandeven says. “What you will see in the legislative priorities is we would ask that possibly the Joint Education Committee or others form a study panel, form a study group to think about some real solutions in that area.”

Vandeven says her department will also form a study group with the same goal in mind. She stresses that the strategy will be an ongoing, long-term discussion.

Vandeven says other department priorities continue for 2021, including early childhood education, ensuring that students are prepared for college and the workforce, and making certain that the state is providing learning opportunities for all students.

The Biden transitional team met virtually last month with America’s top K-12 education leaders to hear from them and to discuss the incoming administration’s educational priorities. One of President-elect Joe Biden’s goals is to have all K-12 students return to in-seat learning within his first 100 days in office. Vandeven, who participated in the meeting, says she fully supports the effort.

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