By Alvin A. Reid | St. Louis American | Word In Black
This post was originally published on St. Louis American
(WIB) – Last May, St. Louis Public Schools and its teachers’ union, American Federation of Teachers Local 420, partnered to approve a significant pay raise for teachers and staff members.
As pleased as retired SLPS Superintendent Kelvin Adams, who helped broker the deal, and Local 420 representatives were, they could not have realized they were helping the state of Missouri see the educational light.
“We more than doubled the previously scheduled raise to offer an unprecedented to offer an 8% pay increase effective July 1, 2022, with 3% raises following the next two years,” Adams said.
SLPS now has the second-highest starting pay for new teachers in the metropolitan area. The agreement also includes a “Pilot Equity Placement and Pay Fund,” which provides extra pay to new teachers who work in district schools.
The contract also includes retention bonuses adding up to $10,000.
The deal will help increase Missouri’s overall teacher pay average – which is one of the lowest in the nation.
The Missouri State Board of Education is taking action to address the woeful statistic that this state’s teachers make almost 20% less than their peers with the same level of education, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Missouri is ranked 50th in the nation with the lowest average starting salary and 45th for teachers with experience.
Often you have what we call a teacher pay gap. They’re just not earning nearly as much as their peers are, who have the same level of education.MARK JONES, MISSOURI NATIONAL TEACHERS ASSOCIATION COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
The board will try to convince legislators during the current session in Jefferson City to raise the minimum teacher salary from $25,000 to $35,000 by the 2024-25 school year. It also recently announced it will invest $50 million over the next three years for the recruitment and retention program.
Anything that helps recruit people into the profession is certainly a good thing,” said Mark Jones, Missouri National Teachers Association communications director.
“Obviously, raising the salary from the bottom of the nation to something more in line with our neighbors around us is a good step. Our hope is that we would see not only an increase for folks who are coming into the profession, but that would also help raise the pay scale across the board.”
The Missouri Stated Teachers Association estimates that more than half of the state’s current teachers are considering leaving the profession. Earlier this year, Education Week estimated that more than 36,500 teacher vacancies exist in the United States, adding that uncredentialed teachers filled more than 163,500 positions. Teacher Salary Project research shows that 74% of teachers don’t believe they receive fair pay.
“Nobody goes into teaching thinking they’re going to have a corner office and drive a luxury vehicle. You do it because you love working with students and helping them achieve their best,” said Jones.
“Often you have what we call a teacher pay gap. They’re just not earning nearly as much as their peers are, who have the same level of education. But also, it’s respect. I think anyone who works a job knows that well. Pay is important, how you’re treated in the workplace, how you’re valued if you’re viewed as a professional, and how your skills are respected. Educators also want to be respected for the professionals.”
A National Effort
With Republicans moving into the House majority on Jan. 1, 2023, Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson’s (D-Fla.) American Teacher Act to incentivize states to increase the minimum K-12 teacher salary to $60,000 faces an uphill climb.
However, if red states such as Missouri are at least considering teacher pay raises, it has a fighting chance.
“Teachers deserve a raise. Unfortunately, our nation’s teachers have been underpaid, overworked, and deprived of resources for too long,” Wilson, former chair of the Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee, said.
Wilson called teachers the backbone of America’s education system and economy.
She noted that they play a foundational role in the development of children.
Wilson’s bill directly addresses these challenges by providing states with federal funding to incentivize school districts to create a minimum salary of $60,000 for teachers. It also funds a national campaign highlighting the value of the teaching profession and encouraging young people to become teachers.RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS
“For seven hours a day, they help shape and inspire young minds as well as nurture students academically and socially,” Wilson said.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill, teachers continued to play a critical role in our recovery, underscoring their indispensability.”
The Teacher Salary Project helped Wilson draft the bill, which they said responds to a national teacher shortage and low professional morale.
The bill creates a four-year federal grant program to increase teachers’ annual salaries to a minimum of $60,000 nationwide.
Additionally, it would create a four-year federal grant available to states and local educational agencies to guarantee the $60,000 minimum wage.
Wilson said teacher shortages count among the most pressing threats to education access today, with districts across the country forced to radically adjust school offerings to respond to turnover and prolonged vacancies.
“While teachers have never received the wages and respect commensurate with the work they do to help all children reach their promise and potential, the culture wars and stagnant wages of the last few years have made this worse,” stated Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
“Wilson’s bill directly addresses these challenges by providing states with federal funding to incentivize school districts to create a minimum salary of $60,000 for teachers.
“It also funds a national campaign highlighting the value of the teaching profession and encouraging young people to become teachers.”