JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
During Teachers Appreciation Week, lawmakers in Jefferson City showed their appreciation by approving a raise in the base salary for Missouri educators.
A conference committee on the state budget met Wednesday in the Capitol to go through the first 15 budget bills and come to compromises on what the House and Senate did not agree on. One of those things was Gov. Mike Parson's proposal to raise the starting teacher salary to $38,000, which ultimately did get approved.
At $32,000, Missouri has the lowest starting teacher salary in the country, according to the National Educators Association.
Parson proposed the $21.8 million to raise the starting pay for Missouri teachers during his State of the State speech in January. Parson's plan has school districts sharing the load with the state to raise teachers' salaries.
However, House Republicans took Parson's plan out of the 2023 budget in the Budget Committee in March. Budget Chair Rep. Cody Smith (R-Jasper) called the plan "unsustainable," and criticized it for not doing enough for current teachers.
When the budget bill moved to the Senate in April, the Appropriations Committee put the governor's plan back in and included a plan called career ladder to help with current teacher pay. Career Ladder incentivizes teachers to participate in after-school programs, tutoring and other extracurriculars to get pay raises.
In Wednesday's conference committee, members of the House and Senate discussed a compromise: to raise the starting salary to only $34,000. Rep. Ingrid Burnett (D-Kansas City) said the compromise was ultimately struck down because it could leave some of the funding untouched.
"We kept the same funding amount," Burnett said. "So that means that we would be leaving money on the table."
The conference committee decided to keep the governor's plan and career ladder.
"I am very encouraged by what I see," Burnett said.
Matt Michelson, the education policy expert for Missouri State Teachers Association, said raising the starting salary is a good start for teacher recruitment and retention.
"It really says that as a state, we do care about our educators and that they're important professionals in our community," Michelson said.
However, Michelson said there are still concerns about the burden this may put on smaller school districts to match the new salary and how sustainable this plan will be in the future.
"It's going to be difficult, honestly, for some districts, but this is a good first step," Michelson said. "We hope that we're able to build on this and future sections to really make more investment on public education teachers."
Lawmakers have until May 6 at 6 p.m. to finalize budget bills.