May 21, 2022

Charlie Shields: All Missourians should care about teacher recruitment and retention

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Missouri shares the national problem with filling teaching positions. Charlie Shields, president of the State Board of Education, explains in this op-ed why folks should be more concerned.

Teachers across our state change lives every day, and research shows their work and influence is the Number One school-level factor in determining a student’s success.

And yet we’re facing a workforce shortage crisis like nothing our schools have ever experienced or I have seen in the 10 years I’ve served on the State Board of Education or my 20 years as a member of the Missouri General Assembly.

You’ve likely heard a number of education-related topics being discussed in the Capitol, on the news, or even at your family’s dinner table. But I doubt this issue — teacher recruitment and retention — is one of them. And yet it is the most pressing issue facing schools across the state, and one we all must come together to address.

Missouri’s State Board of Education has formed a Teacher Recruitment and Retention Blue Ribbon Commission to address teacher recruitment and retention challenges in our state. The Blue Ribbon Commission is bringing together influential business leaders from across the state to study this important issue, as high-quality teachers are vital to ensuring our students grow into the next generation of Missouri’s workforce.

Teacher pay is one clear reason why we cannot attract more people to the profession, and also why so many choose to leave their career. Missouri is last in the nation in average starting teacher salary ($32,970), and 44th in the nation in average teacher salary ($50,817).

Missouri has nearly 70,000 teachers, and just over 4,000 of them currently earn a salary between $25,000 and $35,000. As a state, we must address this longstanding issue and come up with practical, sustainable solutions to pay these public servants the salary they deserve — and we have to do it now.

But the solution to the teacher recruitment and retention challenge isn’t just about the monetary value we assign to this profession — it’s also about a different kind of value. It’s about the respect Missouri families show for their students’ teachers, and it’s about the support both our educational institutions and communities as a whole provide teachers while they fulfill this calling that is incredibly rewarding, but also incredibly taxing.

Read the full op-ed here.

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