Missouri bill aims to help schools fill teaching positions

Published: May. 8, 2023 at 4:55 AM CDT
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QUINCY (WGEM) - Missouri works financially to support teachers with measures like a proposed base teacher salary increase. Another bill looks to not only help schools address teacher shortages but retain teachers as well.

The Bill, House Bill 471 passed the House, which would allow state agencies and public schools to create incentive and retention programs.

The bill would also let schools boost the pay for teachers who either work in hard-to-fill districts or hard-to-fill teaching positions at school districts, up to 20% of their base wages or salary. The Superintendent of the Lewis County C-1 School District, John French said his district would fall under the guidelines to do that.

“We’ve got positions right now where we have some retirees who are teaching under a critical shortage clause. There’s law in the state that does allow a retiree to come out of retirement and teach. Currently, it stands at two years,” French said.

The bill is still being looked over in the Senate. French said he thinks the bill itself might be tacked onto another education bill.

However, there are some concerns about the bill.

French said the bill does have good intentions, but one problem is the incentive and retention programs could violate the Missouri Constitution, which forbids bonuses for state employees.

He said while the programs are optional for schools to have, schools with tight budgets might not be able to offer them at all, which could cause teachers to leave for other positions. He also said the boost to teachers’ pay could also have unintended consequences, as hiring new teachers and paying them as much as more experienced teachers could cause internal conflict.

“The unintended and the realities of how you do that and keep things on a level playing field for your entire staff and not cause there to be internal issues is what I see as a problem,” French said.

He said it could lead to teachers leaving districts already struggling to hire or retain teachers. He said he’s concerned the bill doesn’t provide any money as well to give schools the ability to boost pay or offer these programs, putting the burden on them.

He said it would strain many schools’ budgets, which could cause them to either raise local taxes or pull money from somewhere else in the budget. He said if the bill would set aside some money to allow rural or other districts with tight budgets the ability to off these programs or boost pay, it would be helpful.

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