Missouri K-12 public school teachers might not get a base pay increase after all. The state House Budget Committee has removed Gov. Mike Parson’s plan to boost the minimum pay from the current $25,000 to $38,000 annually.

Parson’s effort is part of his $47 billion state budget proposal for the next fiscal year.

Gov. Mike Parson

Budget Committee chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, says he agrees that teachers should be paid more but he questions if Parson’s $22 million request is the best way to go.

“I think we need to think this through,” says Smith. “If the will of the General Assembly is to reinstate this and take this approach, I understand that. But if not, if this merits further discussion and consideration, I think this is the opportunity to do it. I don’t mean necessarily here in this hearing today, but I mean throughout the budget markup process and the appropriations process and ultimately, the will of the General Assembly will prevail.”

Smith questions the long term effects of raising the base pay.

“Making those increases then not having an ongoing support from the state to pay for it, that’s a concern, number one. Number two, is that this piece does nothing for the compression that would be caused between starting teachers and tenure teachers,” he says.

The last time Missouri increased its minimum teacher pay was back in 2005. What has happened since then? Missouri Education Commissioner, Dr. Margie Vandeven, said at a Missouri Board of Education meeting last December that the state has fallen significantly behind its eight bordering states in teacher pay. She said Missouri’s teachers are leaving the field at a greater rate than the state has ever seen before.

Of the state’s roughly 70,000 K-12 public schools teachers, more than 4,000 would be impacted by the governor’s proposed increase.

Missouri House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith (R-Carthage) testifies before a House committee in Jefferson City on February 24, 2021 (file photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

State Representative Ed Lewis, R-Moberly, agrees with Smith.

“There’s some little school districts out there that this gave them a lot of heartburn,” says Lewis. “This gave them some genuine stomach turning, ‘What are we going to do? We can’t do this.’”

Representative Maggie Nurrenbern, D-Kansas City, opposes the committee’s move.

“Now we’re seeing what a lot are deeming a crisis and not being able to recruit and retain teachers here in this state,” she says. “What I see here instead of trying to do something to address the shortage is that again we’re passing that buck. But I feel like we have to do something as we are really facing a dire shortage. I heard the department say that today we can look at where we’re at today but what’s really startling is where we’re going to be in five years from now. So, if we don’t start to address something soon I’m afraid as to where we could land.”

She points to Missouri’s eight neighboring states.

“It’s really hard, especially when you’re on the border to stay in Missouri and work when you could go across the border and make more,” says Nurrenbern. “So, this was simply a minor boost to those making the least amount of money.”

Smith says Missouri needs a longer term plan that could require a statutory change.

“I don’t know what that is and there are a variety of ideas, plans that have been utilized in the past to increase teacher pay. Career Ladder comes to mind. That’s a discussion we’ve had over the years,” he says. “But there’s no one clear solution. So, maybe this is the best short term solution. Again, I worry about the compression piece. But to your point, you know, it’s an increasingly urgent situation. So maybe this is a one-year approach. I really don’t know. But, before we move forward with the appropriation of those dollars for this purpose, I would like to have a better consensus around what the plan is long term. So that again, we don’t kick the can, as you mentioned, because that would be a concern. If we do it this year, that we would just kind of go back to sleep, and we don’t think about this again until again this time next year. I think it needs to be addressed.”

Lawmakers continue to work on the state budget and efforts to reinstate that line item could happen.

The House Budget Committee still backs designating $20 million for teacher recruitment and retention grants.

Related stories:

Missouri Board Of Education Wants Teacher Pay Minimum To Catch Up With Bordering States: https://www.missourinet.com/2021/12/10/missouri-board-of-education-wants-teacher-pay-minimum-to-catch-up-with-bordering-states-in/

Missouri Education Chief Says Boosting Teacher Pay Remains A Top Priority: https://www.missourinet.com/2021/01/04/missouri-education-chief-says-boosting-teacher-pay-remains-a-top-priority/

State Crafts Plan Aimed At Boosting Missouri Teacher Pay And Keeping Them Around: https://www.missourinet.com/2019/12/17/state-crafts-plan-aimed-at-boosting-missouri-teacher-pay-and-keeping-them-around/

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