Missouri lawmakers and education leaders are keenly aware of the state’s problem plaguing teaching and retention shortages, and some are working to remedy the situation.

The Missouri Board of Education reconvened a statewide commission on teacher recruitment and retention. Paul Katnik, with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), said the group’s immediate goal was to prioritize funding for new and veteran teachers.

“We’ve got some money now to continue to support school districts, especially those who are being really successful at getting people into programs and getting them prepared and getting them back out into the workforce,” he said.

Despite lobbying for annual funding for programs that benefit Missouri’s teachers, there is no state law to permanently fund teacher pay raises.

The commission’s recommendations has gotten the attention of Jefferson City.

“That’s translated into some real interest by the governor, who has mentioned teachers and the workforce in two state of the state addresses in a row and also legislators who then kind of pick up the torch and have passed some great legislation that’s helping us. We’ve got a lot of people who are jumping on and helping us out, which is great,” Katnik said.

In the immediate aftermath of COVID-19, the agency received funding to replace previously designated pandemic relief funding, but that, too, could run out.

Katnik said that the Teacher Baseline Salary Grant Program needs to continue.

“This program guarantees that all teachers earn $38,000 or more,” according to Katnik. “That’s a pretty big jump when you consider the fact that, in statute, the minimum requirement is down at $25,000. Bringing all those teachers who are somewhere between $25,000 and $38,000, up to $38,000, does a lot as well.”

The commission also shared its recommendations Tuesday with the Missouri Board of Education to help improve teacher working conditions.

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