Education leaders hope to give Missouri teachers their first base pay raise in 16 years

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – Administrators in education believe low pay is keeping many people from becoming teachers in Missouri, and it appears to also be keeping educators from staying in the classroom for an entire career. There is an effort to give them a raise and avoid a staff shortage in schools.

“Teachers are working year around. Teachers are working into the evening. Teachers are giving of their time to their students,” said Cassville Superintendent Dr. Richard Asbill.

Dr. Asbill said Missouri teachers are more appreciated than ever, but their compensation does not reflect it.

The latest numbers from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education show, in comparison to ten years ago, fewer people are pursuing a career in education and fewer teachers are staying in the field after five years. School leaders agree, the biggest challenge in finding and keeping quality teachers is the pay.

Asbill said, starting out, teachers in Cassville make $36,500 dollars, which he said would rank in the top 10 rates across southwest Missouri districts.

“We need to be honorable about the fact that these are important jobs in the state of Missouri. These are important jobs in individual communities. We should be paying these teachers a wage that is a professional wage,” Asbill said.

Dr. Paul Katnik is the Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Educator Quality with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. He said, for the last 16 years, the state’s base pay for teachers remains at $25,000.

“Is the type of work and the service they provide to our state really worth what we’re compensating them,” Katnik said.

Katnik proposed a plan last year that would give all teachers a $4,000 raise and increase the minimum salary to $32,000. It would’ve cost the state more than $320 million. That plan was a priority heading into the legislative session, until the coronavirus became the focus.

He said simply raising the minimum salary alone would affect about 1,600 teachers who are making less than $32,000, and would cost the state more than $30 million.

Katnik said right now, it’s about restarting a conversation about what steps need to be taken.

“I know, economy wise, it’s not a good time to be talking about hundreds of millions of dollars for teacher salaries, but at the same time, we’re not going to do anything quick anyway,” Katnik said.

He said all of Missouri’s border states pay their starting teachers $32-36,000 dollars and Missouri is falling behind.

Katnik said if something does not change, it could become even more difficult to find teachers to educate our future leaders.

Asbill said he wants to see the state reward some of its hardest working employees.

“The value of our teachers here in Cassville, or in every other district in the state of Missouri, cannot be emphasized enough,” he said.

Dr. Katnik said the focus on teacher pay is one part of a larger plan to improve teacher recruitment and retention across the state.

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