ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Missouri education officials say they have a plan that would not only increase teachers' pay but also offer raises and attract them to positions that are challenging to fill.
The state currently has one of the worst teacher compensations in the country, ranking at 40th with the average salary of $48,000, according to data from the National Education Association.
But a new proposal could lift Missouri up to 26th with an average salary of about $54,000.
"It's just important to emphasize this just kind of catches us up," said Paul Katnik, an assistant education commissioner at the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Katnik presented a nearly $400 million proposal to the State Board of Education during its December monthly meeting. The three-part plan calls for increasing the base pay for teachers from $25,000 to $32,000, offering teachers a $4,000 raise and creating a fund to lure teachers to take on hard-to-fill positions. The fund would allocate $75 million to recruit teachers to work in high-poverty or rural schools or teaching subjects such as high school science or English as a second language classes for immigrants.
Education officials, teachers and education associations penned the plan.
A May survey by DESE concluded that low compensation is the biggest reason that pushes teachers to leave the classroom, St. Louis Public Radio reported.
"We are losing teachers in the profession because of pay, and we are finding it more and more difficult to recruit teachers into the profession because of pay," said Bruce Moe, executive director of the Missouri State Teachers Association, a union representing rural and suburban teachers.
Republican Rep. Chuck Basye, from Columbia, was named chairperson of the state's House education committee last month.
"I do believe our teachers deserve to be paid a little better," Basye said. "We want to be competitive; we want the best possible teachers we can get."
Mark Jones, the legislative director for the Missouri chapter of the National Education Association, said funding the change is possible if the Legislature prioritizes it.
"We find the money for large corporations. This benefits everyone. There's a need to have this conversation," Jones said.