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State leaders work to fix low-wages, retention for Missouri teachers

(KY3)
Published: Sep. 20, 2019 at 5:23 PM CDT
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Missouri teachers get paid less on average than those in eight surrounding states, according to a news release from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

Based off of the most recent salary schedules, schools around the Ozarks vary on how much they pay teachers for their first year.

Springfield Public Schools will pay a first year teacher with a bachelors degree about $38,000. A more rural school district, like Fair Grove, offers about $34,000 for first year teachers with the same qualification.

Sarah Brannock is a science teacher at Fair Grove high school. She said how much she is being paid is not important to her.

"I don't think anybody picks teaching for the paycheck," she said.

Still, making more would make a big difference, according to some. Brannock commutes from north Springfield each morning, despite the higher-paying opportunities that may be more convenient.

"I enjoy the smaller class sizes and I get a lot of freedom to try new teaching techniques," she said. "That gives me the freedom to try things like project based learning."

The Fair Grove School District has worked in other ways to recruit teachers from places like Springfield. One of its biggest recruitment tools recently has been its switch to four-day school weeks.

"We were able to hire two math teachers from Springfield last Spring," said Fair Grove Principal Chris Stallings. "We do believe that that has been significant in helping us get some of those areas that would typically be hard to fill."

But not every district has seen the same success.

"There is no doubt that schools our size cannot pay what the bigger schools are paying," said Stallings.

DESE's Teacher Workforce Outreach Plan was originally brought to state leaders in March.

One of the most common themes for the focus groups circled back to low-wages.

"Depending on who you want to quote would show that Missouri is either 47, 48 or 49 out of the 50 states in terms of starting teacher salaries," said David Hough with the College of Education at Missouri State University.

Stallings said recruiting can be tough, especially when it comes to certain subjects.

"Some of the harder to fill areas like math and science-- that is somewhat of a pattern there; often times if one of us is looking for say a math teacher or a science teacher you'll be on the phone 'hey does anyone know of any math people, did anyone have a good student teacher?" said Stallings.

Local universities like MSU are working to keep classrooms here in Southwest Missouri staffed in the future.

"Our 'Bear In Every Building' initiative is to reach out to educators in Missouri and ask them to partner with us to recruit the next generation of teachers," said Hough.

DESE will have its outreach plan finished at the end of October.

Click

to view more details about the outreach plan.