JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Missouri representatives on both sides of the aisle say finding money in the budget to boost teachers' pay could prove difficult.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education proposed a $400 million plan in December which would provide teachers a pay raise and target hard-to-fill positions with additional pay incentives.
According to a department report, Missouri's starting salary for teachers was ranked 49th in the country in 2018, while the average salary was ranked 39th.
Two bills have also been filed to boost the salary of teachers across the state.
Rep. Brenda Sheilds (R-St. Joseph) filed HB 1990, which would raise minimum teacher salaries by $1,000 per year for seven years if passed.
Rep. Kip Kendrick (D-Columbia), a co-sponsor of HB 1990 and a member of the House Budget Committee, said raising teacher pay is critical.
"Raising teacher pay should rank at the top of our list but finding all of the money that would be needed to do it will be challenging," Kendrick said.
Kendrick said he believes the General Assembly must find the funding in the state's budget because school districts would have to make drastic cuts to find the money without state help.
"Passing a piece of legislation without putting the funding behind it would shut down many school districts in the state of Missouri," Kendrick said.
While Kendrick said he doesn't think HB 1990 will pass this year, he hopes the state and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education continue to have conversations about how to fund teacher pay increases.
"If we can at least further the conversation, keep it on the forefront of everyone's mind, and in the meantime, find out how we are going to fund this proposal," Kendrick said.
Rep. Chuck Basye (R-Rocheport) said while teacher pay is an extremely important topic during this legislative session, he believes the report from DESE needs to be looked at with more scrutiny.
"I'm not opposed to raising teacher pay at all, but I think we have to be very careful about how we go about it," Basye said.
Basye the budget committee will have to come up with a revenue stream to fund teacher salary increases, but it's not going to be easy.
"Resources are always tight, there's a lot of need in the state from all across the spectrum," Basye said.
Basye is the chair of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, which may look over HB 1990 if the speaker refers the bill to him.
Another bill filed by Rep. LaKeySha Bosley (D-St. Louis) aims to raise the minimum teacher's salary to $30,000 by 2021.
The bill would also create a "Teacher Minimum Salary Fund." Money from the fund would be given to school districts depending on how many teachers are not being paid the proposed minimum salary.
Watch ABC 17 News at 6 for a full report.