49th in teacher pay? Embarassing!

On the same week as the Quality Counts Report Card release, Mo. House Speaker Rod Jetton (R) introduced a plan to increase the state minimum for teacher's pay to $31,000, which is significantly higher than the current minimum of $23,000. The plan also includes other floors up to $46,000 minimum for the most experienced teachers. In fact he opened the 2008 session with increasing teacher pay as his first priority.

This raise would not affect the St. Louis area much as all but one St. Louis county district already exceeds the minimum (Hancock Place). St. Charles County also already meets the minimum, but some districts in Jefferson County would need to raise their salary schedules.

One of Jetton's problems is convincing the urban areas to go along with the legislation. Missouri has an urban/rural divide already, and some have the perception that the urban areas are going to pay for a benefit for the rural areas, again. Jetton counters that we need to entice young people to go into the profession in the first place and that improving rural education would also improve the county schools. (He called it the trickle up effect on the Paul Harris show on KMOX.) More practically, he said he was open to working with others to modify the bill.

The most interesting caller to me on Paul Harris's show (episode download) was the school board member who ranted about how big teachers' pensions were. I wouldn't want him on my school board--not necessarily because of his opinions but because of his lack of judgement in calling in to the show presumably against increasing teachers' pay. But maybe that's how he was elected. Jetton countered that his focus was on bringing young people into the profession.

Whatever your arguments are about whether to include benefits and the ten-month term in comparing salaries, 49th in teacher pay is embarrassing.

The unscientific but interesting Post online poll asked "What do you think of teacher salaries?"
73% They should be higher
6 They should be lower
21 They're fine where they are
(600 votes as of 1-11-08 at 8:54 a.m.)

The numbers really didn't change much as I had checked the poll Thurs. (78, 5, 17 with 348 votes)

Public opinion may be for increasing teachers' pay, at least until they see the bill, but we'll have to watch this one.