Herald-Whig View

Missouri school funding inadequate

Posted: Jan. 17, 2019 9:05 am

A PAIR of news stories illustrate the financial issues that Missouri's K-12 school districts are facing.

Warren County schools said that next school year the district will go to a four-day weekly schedule. By eliminating Monday classroom schedules, the district hopes to slow the exodus of teachers who are leaving for schools with higher pay.

Superintendent Gregg Klinginsmith told the Associated Press the district had a 20 percent turnover rate last school year. Many of those leaving went to Wentzville, where pay and benefit packages were better.

"We don't have the resources to pay salaries as high as our neighbors to the east, so we thought we might try using time as an incentive for teachers to stay and work here," Klinginsmith said.

While the Warren County story demonstrates the challenges that one school district is facing, a report that came out in December shows how far the state lags on education funding.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reports that 11 percent of teachers leave their positions each year -- far higher than the national departure rate of nearly 8 percent.

A nationwide study shows that Missouri's average starting salary for teachers is $31,842. Only Montana has a lower average starting salary for educators.

What makes the lower starting wage worse is that surrounding states have average salaries that start about $3,000 higher.

For rural districts, even the average starting salary seems high. Missouri has set a minimum starting salary at $25,000. At that level, many recent graduates find it difficult to start repaying the college debt they incurred on the path toward their teaching degrees.

At this point, we're not suggesting how Missouri lawmakers should address this problem. Recognizing there is a problem should come first.

As the 2019 General Assembly began last week, there was little talk of school funding.

A few legislators proudly pointed to the past few years and "fully funding the state school formula." That boast ignores the fact that schools were shortchanged by $200 million in transportation funds during those years. It ignores whether the funding formula provides enough to retain teachers.

Lawmakers, and the voters who elected them, must be aware of the state's inadequate school funding.

The numbers point the way -- even without the help of any underpaid math teachers.