Missouri Board of Education President Charlie Shields says the number one factor in student achievement is a great teacher in the classroom.
“This all plays together,” said Shields. “If you care about student achievement, you’ve got to care about putting great teachers in front of the class because you can’t have one without the other.”
In an opinion piece, Shields says teacher recruitment and retention is likely the most pressing issue facing schools across the state. He says the Missouri Legislature has discussed other education-related topics this session, but he says the state must come together to quickly address teacher recruitment and retention efforts.
“We’ve gotten to a point where I wouldn’t quite say crisis yet,” said Shields. “But if we don’t do something very quickly, we will be in a crisis. We will not have the ability to put qualified teachers in front of students in classrooms. And that’s why the State Board of Education established this Blue Ribbon Commission to begin to work on this and the work is imperative.”
The statewide Teacher Recruitment and Retention Blue Ribbon Commission officially kicks off its work next month and is scheduled to lay out its recommendations to the Missouri Board of Education in October.
Shields cites fewer people studying to become teachers and enrollment in Missouri’s educator preparation programs has declined by nearly 30% over the last decade. Since the beginning of the pandemic, teachers are leaving the field at a greater rate than the state has ever experienced.
The latest state budget proposal would boost the minimum teacher pay from $25,000 annually to at least $38,000. It would also give experienced teachers an opportunity to get a pay boost through professional development and student mentoring.
Shields says if the state budget items pass, the commission’s work will continue.
“I think we have to rethink what does work look like,” said Shields. “I mean, I will tell you that’s not happening just in education. It’s happening across all types of work. I’m in the healthcare business. We’re rethinking how do we attract workers and provide care. Does that mean more flexibility? There’s a lot of work for the Blue Ribbon Commission, in addition to looking at the financial piece.”
Shields explains what the state stands to lose if Missouri does not effectively address this workforce problem.
“Ultimately, if we don’t solve this problem, we will see a decline in the quality of students coming out of the education system, which affects both higher education, but also the job market out there. And if we’re not good at this, and we don’t fix it, I think ultimately the economy will suffer in Missouri. I’ve done enough work when I was in Legislature around economic development, and then I run a large institution that employs 5,000 people. The one thing I know, when I talk to people and my business colleagues, the number one issue for business is being able to have an effective workforce. You just simply can’t have an elementary and education system that doesn’t function right, or a higher education system that doesn’t function well, and expect to have a good workforce coming out of that on the back end. If you don’t have the workforce, the entire economy suffers,” said Shields.
On the flip side, if the state gets this effort right, Shields says it could be one of the best economic development tools it has ever invested in.
“Because we know we’re creating a viable and well qualified workforce for the future,” he said. “So, I think the work we do right now will have huge impact on what the state’s economic outlook looks like 10 years out.”
About 70,000 teachers serve roughly 900,000 preK-12 students in Missouri.
To listen to the full Show Me Today interview, click below. (15:33)
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