JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Missouri's governor is again proposing a one-year fix to pay teachers more money in the fiscal year 2024 budget.
Gov. Mike Parson -- in his State of the State speech Wednesday -- proposed $32 million for a career ladder program and a grant program to boost teachers' base pay to $38,000.
Missouri law pegs base pay for teachers at $25,000. Last year, the legislature approved a temporary solution with the grant program to raise that number for one year to $38,000. Parson wants to repeat that one-year fix.
"Clearly this program is making a difference, and we are committed to continuing it for teachers," Parson said during the speech. Parson's administration plans to propose the grant every year.
More than 6,000 school teachers from across 356 Missouri school districts participated in the baseline salary grant last year, Parson said.
Education leaders have called for a permanent change in state law that would bring the base salary up for good. They cite Missouri as having among the lowest levels of base pay for teachers among all states.
Missouri House Minority Leader Crystal Quade (D-Springfield) said the governor's plan was a starting point, but is not enough. Rep. Kathy Stienhoff (D-Columbia), said the plan is only benefiting a small portion of teachers in Missouri.
"This affected about 6,000 teachers in our state," Steinhoff said. "We have about 67,000 teachers in our state. Although it was really great for those teachers in our state, it is not a widespread adjustment to salaries."
Mallory McGowin, of the Department of Education and Secondary Education, said the department is happy to see the first step taken, but hopes changing the minimum salary will provide a more sustainable solution.
"These are great first steps," McGowin said. "The Blue Ribbon Commission would tell you, we want to see this momentum moving forward ultimately resulting in more of those long-term sustainable solutions to address teacher pay."
Missouri's National Education Association spokesman Mark Jones said increasing the teacher pay is important to fill the state's ongoing teacher shortage.
"This is about people who are getting college degrees to be qualified teachers and not seeing their pay keep pace in any way with their peers," Jones said. "That's a real issue if we want to keep recruiting people into the profession, particularly with issues like student loans and such."
Parson's proposal includes a $233 million investment for school transportation.
Parson is requesting a $56 million investment to expand the pre-kindergarten option for all children 4 years old or younger to be eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, as well as a $78 million increase in childcare subsidy rates.
Rep. Paula Brown (D-Hazelwood) is concerned about the way the program is built into the budget.
"If we don't continue to fund it year after year, then we will find a hole at some point where the salaries will drop back down," Brown said.
Brown added that both the career ladder and Baseline Teacher Program are great programs, however until the minimum pay statute is amended, it's only temporary.