Governor Parson Delivers State of the State Speech
On Wednesday afternoon, Governor Mike Parson delivered his State of the State Address to a joint session of the general assembly.
In his speech, he outlined proposed spending for the next fiscal year. Overall, the governor is proposing a $51.6 billion state budget, with $14.3 billion in spending from the general revenue fund. The state currently has a general revenue surplus of $5.2 billion, the largest in state history. The plan outlined by Gov. Parson would leave about $4 billion in the bank at the end of the coming fiscal year as a reserve for future budgets.
The proposed education budget continues the efforts made last year to improve salaries, including the grant program started last year to pay for 70% of cost to raise the minimum teacher's salary to $38,000. Currently, there are 356 districts participating in the program with more than 6,000 teachers who are now making $38,000.
During the speech, Gov. Parson pointed to guest Emily Fluckey, a first-grade teacher from Meadville R-4 School District located in Linn County. Fluckey received a $7,000 increase in pay after the legislature moved last year to boost teacher pay to a base level of $38,000.
“She was able to move out of her parents’ house, get married and begin pursuing a master’s degree. She represents our educators who certainly don’t do it for the money but do it for our children and the future of our state,” Parson said.
The budget proposal also includes an increase of $31 million for the Career Ladder Program that was reinstated for the current school year. Currently, there are nearly 140 districts participating with 11,000 teachers working for the additional money that comes with the additional work, benefiting Missouri students.
The proposed education budget also includes increases to fully fund the foundation formula and to once again fully fund the state portion of school transportation costs.
Finally, the Governor announced a $56 million plan to start the process of providing Pre-Kindergarten programs to all children in low-income families. Under the plan, 50% of all families with preschool students will be able to enroll their children in expanded programs through their local school district at no cost.
Teacher Recruitment and Retention
During the State Board of Education meeting last week, Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Educator Quality, Dr. Paul Katnik gave a short update on the January 2023 Report on Teacher Workforce. His presentation included a review of current data and its implications on the vital work of recruiting and retaining diverse, effective teachers. Dr. Katnik’s presentation was abbreviated from reports over the past several years, but the department has put a focus on these issues through the Missouri Teacher Recruitment and Retention Blue Ribbon Commission.
In an expanded report to the Missouri General Assembly in December 2022 about Recruitment and Retention of Teachers in Missouri Public Schools, the department outlined issues that are all too familiar across school districts in Missouri. Data from the department showed an increase in enrollment in educator preparation programs at Missouri colleges and universities, yet completion of those programs remained stagnant. Initial certificates issued by the department show a continued decline since 2018-19 and a decrease in the overall teacher retention rate. Diversity data collected also shows that the teacher workforce in the state remains mostly unchanged. The report states that teachers with five or fewer years of experience represented 26.2% of all teachers. The three certification areas with the highest number of vacancies in the state were elementary education, Special Education and physical education, accounting for over 3,400 total vacancies across the state. In Missouri, close to 8% of available full-time teaching positions in the 2020-21 school year were either vacant or filled by individuals who were not fully qualified.
The State Board of Education has been working on issues regarding teacher recruitment and retention over the past four years. The Missouri State Teachers Association has been an active partner in those efforts, with membership on the DESE organized Teachers Table and by providing valuable survey information from thousands of Missouri educators. This isn’t new ground for the State Board of Education to cover. Beginning in March of 2019, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education presented the State Board of Education with a Teacher Workforce Outreach Plan with updates in May, September and December. The plan provided direction and focus for addressing challenges and issues regarding Missouri’s teacher workforce that included 26 strategies and 90 action steps. The DESE-led effort to prepare, develop and support educators to ensure an effective teacher in every classroom and an effective leader in every school was largely halted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of those ideas were incorporated in the Missouri Teacher Recruitment and Retention Blue Ribbon Commission.
The commission issued a report to the State Board of Education in October. Immediate priorities included increasing the starting teacher salary and annual funding for the Career Ladder Program, establishing sustainable funding for Grow Your Own Programs and encouraging schools to implement team-based teaching models. The report also included short-term priorities such as increasing all salaries, support for teacher mental health and tuition assistance. Long-term priorities in the report include salary supplements for filling high-needs positions and supplements for teachers with National Board Certifications. In a survey of teachers, principals and superintendents from the Blue Ribbon Commission, support for differential pay and using evaluation data to inform teacher compensation scored among the highest reasons for why current educators would want to leave their position. The report is a roadmap for addressing important issues in the profession. Educators were represented on the commission with expert input from Crestwood Elementary physical education teacher and 2021 Missouri Teacher of the year, Darrion Cockrell, and Fordland High School language arts teacher, 2020 Missouri Teacher of the Year, Misty Grandel.
Efforts made by the state in the last several years are just starting to develop into tangible programs that will hopefully bring meaningful changes.
In May 2021, DESE announced Grow Your Own (GYO) grants available to all school districts. The grants are for $10,000 and must be obligated by September 30, 2023. These grants are for school districts to encourage current students to consider a career in education, and potentially return to their home school district as an educator. Allowable expenses for the GYO grant include:
Partnerships – educator preparation programs and professional organizations to support students in their exploration of the profession of teaching
Recruitment and selection – identifying students with potential to be effective teachers and invite them to participate
Preparation and support – providing opportunities for students to participate in learning activities to increase their understanding of the profession of teaching
Evaluation – gathering and reporting data on the success of their strategies to recruit LEA students into educator preparation programs
Retaining teachers in a school district and in the profession is a key component to addressing the teacher shortage. DESE has provided grants to school districts to assist educators in hopes of retaining them in the school district. Some approved activities that can be funded with the grant are:
Expanding and improving the LEA’s mentor program for new teachers
Providing stipends to teachers for the performance of non-contractual duties
Hiring substitute teachers, aides or para-professionals to provide additional support to teachers
Providing support for professional development opportunities, including scholarships for teachers completing National Board Certification
Utilizing culture and climate surveys to identify and address working condition issues and needs
Providing services or resources to address the social-emotional needs of teachers or training to teachers to assist them in meeting the social-emotional needs of students
Providing professional learning opportunities based on needs identified by teachers
Increasing opportunities for elevating teacher voice and increasing teacher leadership opportunities
MSTA’s Advocacy Efforts on Recruitment and Retention
MSTA has a rich history in teacher recruitment and retention efforts that continues today. MSTA programs and advocacy support current teachers, as well as strong relationships with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, institutions of higher education and with high school students.
Future Teachers of America (FTA) was founded by MSTA in 1937 to serve as a recruitment tool for students in secondary schools. FTA is operated by MSTA and provides tools for teachers to assist and mentor their students in gaining perspective and real-world experience as a teacher. Each year, MSTA hosts a statewide meeting of FTA members and advisors in Columbia. The meeting is held in conjunction with a college fair for Missouri colleges and universities to present to high school students about their offerings. This meeting is an opportunity for FTA chapters to share their activities and take home new ideas on how to grow their chapters and their community impact. Many school districts used their GYO grants to begin or restart an FTA chapter.
SMSTA is MSTA’s college-level organization. College students can join MSTA for free and experience the benefits of membership including professional learning opportunities and statewide meetings. Students can network with each other and with practicing educators to build their professional learning network.
MSTA worked with legislators on both sides of the aisle to retool and bring back the Career Ladder program with attached funding. This important program supports student enrichment and success. MSTA also supported the new grant program to increase the minimum teacher salary and will continue to push for funding that addresses the need to increase the salaries of all school employees.
MSTA provides numerous professional learning opportunities for educators to strengthen their skills in the classroom. New Professional Training Camp is a 2-day event for teachers in the first seven years of their career. Supporting teachers at the beginning of their career is crucial to keeping them in the profession. In Missouri, 47% of teachers have ten years of experience or less. MSTA also offers mentor training for beginning teachers and their mentors. Other professional learning opportunities can be found at msta.org/For-Missouri-Educators/Professional-Learning, including the new Virtual New Teacher Summit. Registration is open for this synchronous learning opportunity in which participants choose what topics they want to learn more about. The Summit will take place on February 8th from 5:00 - 8:00 p.m. and will consist of three different sessions. In each session, participants will be able to choose from a variety of topics, such as student engagement, classroom management and instructional design. Each breakout will be 50 minutes long with a ten-minute break between sessions. Presentations will be recorded and those who attend the event will have access to the recordings of all sessions.
Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee holds first hearing
Two bills were presented in the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee this week that would create a “Parents’ Bill of Rights Act of 2023.” The bills are similar in subject, but there are differences between the two pieces of legislation.
SB4 (Koenig) and SB89 (B.Brown) expand the information to be made accessible on the Missouri Accountability Portal to include all forms of compensation and benefits paid to, or on behalf of, public employees. The bills require that each local school board and charter school governing board approve and adopt the curriculum at least two months prior to implementation. Each school board and charter school governing board shall adopt policies to ensure that the approved and adopted curricula are properly implemented in the classroom. The parents’ bill of rights language prohibits schools from requiring nondisclosure agreements for a parent's review of curricula and each school must provide a parent, upon request, with an electronic or paper copy of the curriculum documents. The Commissioner of Education is required to establish the Missouri Education Transparency and Accountability Portal to provide citizens with access to every school district's curriculum, textbooks and syllabi. The portal shall include the cost associated with speakers and guests used by a school in their professional development activities.
The bills further outline rules for the discussion of certain concepts in schools. No school or school employee shall compel teachers to teach, or a student or teacher to personally adopt, adhere to, or profess a position or viewpoint a reasonable person would conclude violates certain public policy expressed in the act including but not limited to:
Individuals of any race, ethnicity, color or national origin being inherently superior or inferior
Individuals, by virtue of their race, ethnicity, color or national origin, bearing collective guilt and being inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by others.
This bill states that the language of the bill shall not be construed to prohibit constitutionally protected speech, access to research or study materials or the discussion or assignment of materials for educational purposes.
SB4 also directs the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop a patriotic and civics training program to prepare teachers to teach the principles of American civics and patriotism. Subject to appropriation, each teacher that completes the training will receive a one-time bonus of $3,000 to be paid by the department.
MSTA has a number of concerns regarding these bills, including the additional bureaucratic burden placed on teachers as well as the possible effects of damaging recruitment and retention efforts. Missouri teachers welcome the vital partnership with students’ parents as well as transparency regarding the hard work and dedication in schools across the state.