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Missouri Board of Education seeks wage increase for educators next session

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s State Board of Education hopes to see legislators increase minimum salaries for educators by $10,000 by the 2025 school year to combat a severe teacher shortage. 

The board’s Legislative Committee presented its priorities during Tuesday’s meeting, agreeing upon its desire for a $35,000 base salary, an increase that would cost $12 million if approved by the legislature. While the recommendation was unanimously approved, several board members suggested the base rate did not go far enough and would need to be revisited in the future. 

“When compared to other states, Missouri is at or near the bottom when it comes to what we pay our teachers — both when they enter the profession and as they advance throughout their career,” Board President Charlie Shields said. “Our eight border states have made headway in addressing teacher pay in recent years, while Missouri has remained stagnant. DESE is working to implement a wide variety of recruitment and retention strategies, but we must have legislative support to ensure Missouri students continue to have the best educators possible in their classrooms.”

Missouri ranks last in average starting salary for teachers in the U.S. and No. 45 in terms of average salary, according to the National Education Association. 

Educators aren’t the only Missouri workers hoping to see a wage increase: Gov. Mike Parson announced he would recommend a substantial minimum wage increase for state workers Monday, another proposal that will go before the legislature at the beginning of session.

Other board matters

Other priorities approved by the education board included an emphasis on workforce readiness, broadband access, and the implementation of competency-based learning to replace time-based attendance structures with a greater focus on academic performance. 

The committee also advocated for open enrollment, which would allow public school students to transfer to any participating district even if they do not reside there within the district. Rep. Brad Pollitt pre-filed a bill that would implement the proposal last week. 

The board voted to recertify Riverview Gardens School District’s Special Administrative Board (SAB) through June 2024, also allowing the placement of two new members to the five-member board through the April election. 

Normandy School District’s SAB was also recertified through 2024. While its board is seven members strong, it was approved for its own transition to public governance, allowing voters to select replacements for two members whose terms will expire in June. 

Filing for school board positions opened Tuesday and will close on Dec. 28.

“There has been a lot of great discussion this year at both the state and local level on how governance can and should take place in Normandy and Riverview Gardens,” Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner Margie Vandeven said. “We want to do what is best for the students in Normandy and Riverview Gardens, and we believe a thoughtful transition back to local governance will help ensure the ongoing improvement efforts in these districts continue.”

The board also suspended three of the University of Missouri-Columbia’s six charter sponsorships. DESE evaluated the sponsorships from July 2020-March 2021 after reports of material noncompliance, which did not improve throughout the evaluation period. Multiple board members said they would have supported the removal of all of the university’s sponsorships, noting similar concerns about performance over the past several years. 

The university’s ability to take on new sponsorships was also frozen for the time being. The board will consider its reauthorization in the future. 

Members approved a new rule outlining new requirements for computer science education. Based on a 2018 state law, high schools may allow students to take a computer science class to receive math, science, or art credits. Schools would be required to inform parents the supplement could hamper college enrollment opportunities for participating students, with board members noting most institutions require four math credits for admission. 

The board also recognized Fulton Middle School Principal Beth Houf, who was named the National Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. 

Finally, board members reviewed the latest COVID-19 policies. Attorney General Eric Schmitt instructed public health agencies and school districts to halt mask and quarantine mandates this week after a recent court order nullified health officials’ ability to impose them. DESE said it would continue to monitor the rules for COVID-19 regulations. 

The next Board of Education meeting is scheduled to take place in February.