JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — New teachers in Missouri might not get the pay raise Gov. Mike Parson was hoping for with some Republican lawmakers hesitant about the plan. 

Chairman of the House Budget Committee Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, said Monday, for now, he’s removing the governor’s request of raising the starting teacher salary out of next year’s budget. He said he’s unsure of the long-term effects not only for school districts but also for the state. 

“Do we need to pay teachers more?” Smith said to committee members. “Absolutely. Is this the right way to do it? I’m not sure.”

The starting salary for teachers in the Show-Me State is $25,000, the lowest in the country and nearly 20% under the national average

“It’s really hard, especially when you’re on the border, to stay in Missouri and work when you could go across the border and make more,” said Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern, D-Kansas City. “This was simply a minor boost to those making the least amount of money.”

Parson told lawmakers during his State of the State address in January he wants to pay $38,000 for new educators. 

“Half of our new teachers leave the profession by their fifth years,” Parson said. “This is unacceptable, and we must do better.”

Smith agrees something needs to be done but isn’t sure if this is the right approach. 

“This piece does nothing for the compression that would be caused between starting teachers and tenured teachers,” Smith said. “So the ones that have been there for a while would not be receiving any increase related to this, it would just be for new teachers.”

Under Parson’s recommendation, the state would be responsible for 30% of the raise while the remaining portion would be from the district.

“I would love to see us discuss this more because there are some little school districts out there that this gave them a lot of heartburn, that this gave them some genuine stomach-turning,” said Rep. Ed Lewis, R-Moberly. 

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) estimates roughly 4,000 teachers throughout the state make between $25,000 and $35,000 a year. 

Here’s a look at teachers’ salaries in neighboring states:

Arkansas: 

  • Starting salary: $35,201 – 49th in the nation 
  • Average salary: $50,457 – 47th in the nation

Iowa

  • Starting salary: $37,992 – 35th in the nation 
  • Average salary: $54,096 – 34th in the nation

Kansas

  • Starting salary: $38,314 – 33rd in the nation 
  • Average salary: $51,320 – 44th in the nation

Illinois 

  • Starting salary: $40,484 – 22nd in the nation 
  • Average salary: $68,083 – 12th in the nation 

“What I see here is instead of trying to do something to address this shortage is again, we’re passing that buck,” Nurrenbern said. “What’s really startling is where we are going to be in five years from now. If we don’t start to address something soon, I’m afraid of where we could land.”

Smith said he’s willing to put the $22 million that would cover the increase back into the budget if that’s what the General Assembly wants. 

“I will say now, and I will say as often as we talk about this, that I do think we need to do something about teacher pay in Missouri. That’s clear,” Smith said. “I’m not sure this is the best approach I’ve heard.”

Rep. Scott Cupps, R-Shell Knob, said he spoke with educators in his district who offer extra pay to teachers who help and coach extra-curricular activities. 

“If we take that approach from a state standpoint, I think we can address this without it being the can of worms that we would open by doing it the way it was structured,” Cupps said. 

The budget committee will meet later this week to add changes to the proposed legislation, where members could add the raise back into the budget.

Lawmakers have previously argued Missouri has one of the best pension systems for teachers in the country, but in order to be vested, they must be in the classroom for at least five years. Missouri has the highest contribution rate out of its surrounding states, according to TeacherPension.org:

 Missouri: 

  • Teachers’ contribution 14.5%
  • Employer matches that, 14.5%
  • Vesting period: 5 years 

Illinois

  • Teachers’ contribution: 9.81%
  • Vesting period: 10 years 

Arkansas

  • Teachers’ contribution: 6%
  • Vesting period: 5 years 

Kansas 

  • Teachers’ contribution: 6%
  • Vesting period: 5 years 

Iowa 

  • Teachers’ contribution: 6.2%
  • Vesting period: 7 years 

The budget must be approved by both the House and the Senate by May 6.