Missouri eyes plan to increase pay for teachers by thousands of dollars

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Missouri and Kansas both rank near the bottom for teacher salaries. But the Show-Me State is now considering a plan to boost how much educators are paid.

Suzanne Tiemann has taught and led schools in two countries and three U.S. states. Like a lot of young teachers starting out, she loved being in the classroom, but the meager salary was hard to manage.

"I went into administration. Teaching wasn't paying the bills," Tiemann said.

As a school principal for years, she started to notice a slow and steady change.

"Fifteen years ago, I had teacher candidates everywhere. The last year I was a principal, it was a hard time hiring because there just weren't enough candidates there," Tiemann said.

And she believes low pay is a big reason why.

The National Education Association said, adjusted for inflation, teacher salaries are actually falling. It pegs average teacher pay in the U.S. at $61,000 a year. But in Kansas, it's just $49,000 (47th in the nation) and in Missouri, an average of $50,000 (45th nationally).

"It is hard to make ends meet if you're just on a teacher's salary. Most of the teachers I know have a side hustle," Tiemann said.

She's now at Park University, helping train teachers and recruiting people to the profession. Tiemann believes a new plan Missouri's State Board of Education is considering to boost teacher pay could help.

The plan calls for boosting minimum pay from $25,000 to $32,000, giving all teachers a $4,000 raise, and creating a fund to entice teachers toward hard-to-fill positions.

"I'm so glad Missouri's taking a look at this because we do need to lift up our teachers," Tiemann said.

And she says investments in teachers are truly investments in all of us and our country's future.

"Education, it's the economic engine to our society, and I think it's the people who want to see the growth and want to see America do well that go into teaching and learning and we have to bring it back to the forefront," she said.

The Missouri State Board of education meets Wednesday, and will talk about putting the teacher pay initiative in its 2020 legislative priorities. The big question is how the roughly $322-million for those teacher salary increases would be paid for.

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