KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Missouri ranks last in the nation paying starting tuition salaries an average annual salary of approximately $33,000 according to the National Education Association.
A bill introduced in the US House of Representatives would raise the minimum starting wage for teachers to $60,000 a year.
According to the Missouri State Teachers Association, half of all teachers often consider leaving the profession. Former substitute teacher Iris Simmons understands why.
“They have such an influence on our kids and I don’t understand why we’re so reluctant to pay them more money. I don’t understand why they get paid so little because it’s such hard work,” Simmons said.
The minimum teacher pay in Missouri is $25,000 per year according to state statute. Only Missouri raised the minimum wage to $38,000 for this school year. It took $250 million to fund 70% of these raises.
Discussions are ongoing in Jefferson City about whether that funding and the mandatory minimum should be maintained. Kansas comes in 32nd nationally with just over $39,100 in average starting salaries.
“There is a real shortage of people who are willing to do the paperwork and jump through all the hoops teachers face right now for pay that doesn’t match what you could earn in business,” Kansas City Federation of Teachers President Jason Roberts said.
The American Teacher Act, supported locally by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, would raise teachers’ starting pay to $60,000 a year. It requests federal grants to support states and local school districts by increasing their pay.
“The federal government would have to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in local education to make it work,” Roberts said.
Roberts is also unsure of the monumental changes the federal minimum might need, with education usually left to the states. He however he supports the message behind the idea.
“It’s bringing the conversation to the national table that we have a national teacher shortage, it’s now crisis level,” Roberts said.
“If you’re not going to pay them, they’ll go somewhere else to earn what they really deserve. I’m all for it if they raise wages and bring in more qualified people,” parent Justin Klimek said.