Baseline Salary Grant

Poplar Bluff accepts governor initiative to raise teacher salaries ‚Äč
Posted on 08/22/2022
2022 Teachers of the Year

The R-I Board of Education took what has been described as “bold action,” in response to a recommendation from Gov. Mike Parson, raising Poplar Bluff’s base teacher salary to $38,000, using one-time state and federal funds school leaders applied for to help subsidize the increase.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released a memo at the end of the legislative session announcing funding for the Teacher Baseline Salary Grant program being included in the state’s fiscal year 2023 budget.

Unapplied ESSER money awarded to R-I for recovering lost learning as a result of the pandemic, in addition to the $150,000 match from the state for teachers below the minimum salary level, will help offset the estimated $3.9 million expenditure for the next three years when officials project the salary schedule would have otherwise reached the threshold.

“This will be a historical budget that will carry on for many years down the road benefiting our kids, staff and community for generations to come,” said R-I Assistant Superintendent of Business Dr. Amy Jackson during the June budget workshop.

During the May school board meeting, member Tim Gaebler made the motion with Jerrod Murphy seconding it, followed by unanimous approval from Dr. Cynthia Brown, Roger Hanner, Alana Robertson and John Scott to increase the base teacher salary of $35,336 by $2,664, along with moving the base classified schedule from $11.26 to $12.54 an hour, exceeding Missouri’s $12 minimum wage goal of 2023.

“I’ve always wanted Poplar Bluff to be a destination school… and we have high expectations for our teachers,” commented Scott, board president. “We’re in a unique position in history with school finances, I’d imagine since school started… and we’re not in the business of making money and piling it up.”

The 70/30 percent matching grant program was optional, with some districts declining to accept the state contribution, estimated to impact up to 12 percent of teachers statewide, according to DESE. Another scenario contemplated by school leaders was to freeze the salary schedule at $38,000 for anyone making less, but it would cause new teachers to remain stagnant for several years, while not recognizing veteran faculty for their service.

“Over the course of the last two school years we have rather routinely asked the impossible of our teachers of the education system, not just in Poplar Bluff, but around the state and nation, and I am immensely proud of the work we have done locally to ensure the continuity of education for our students,” explained Dr. Scott Dill, R-I superintendent. “But it has not come without a price, and that price has been realized in terms of the toll taken on educational practitioners.”

Karmen Carson, Missouri State Teachers Association representative, anticipates that after current contracts expire one year from now, Poplar Bluff may see a surge of new teachers applying, especially in light of inflation. “We’re moving in the right direction,” Carson said, comparing the feeling of the board move to when the district passed its historic levy measure in 2014 in a 15-year record turnout by Butler County voters.

“It’s just nice to know that we mattered at a time when teaching is so difficult, and Missouri teachers in general are not that high on the teacher pay scale, nationally speaking,” added Crystal Dover, Missouri National Education Association rep. “We feel seen.”

According to DESE Deputy Commissioner Dr. Kari Monsees, the General Assembly approved the $21.8 million in funds as a “first step toward addressing teacher pay in Missouri, which ranks among the lowest states in the nation for baseline teacher salaries,” with statute requiring local educational agencies to pay teachers with bachelor's degrees a minimum of only $25,000 and $33,000 with a master’s.

“By moving our base to 38 all at once, rather than naturally over the course of three plus school years, this bold action by the Board of Education firmly establishes that Poplar Bluff is a district and a community that cares deeply about the quality of education,” Dill continued. “Our goal is to become the premier destination regionally and potentially throughout the state, and I can tell you people around Missouri have taken notice of the achievement and the direction of the district."

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Cutline: Honored during the annual Teacher of the Year luncheon held in May at the Westwood Center, were (left to right) Hannah Tooman, Lake Road TOY; Jennifer Cheek, Kindergarten Center TOY; Michelle Adams, Eugene Field TOY; Sharon Burkey, Early Childhood TOY; Hilary Taylor, Junior High and Middle School Grade-Span TOY; Taytem Lorenzana, Middle School TOY; Steven Layman; Technical Career Center TOY; Andrea Cox, High School, Secondary Grade-Span and District TOY; Alecia Bacon, O’Neal TOY; and Donna Tribble, Mark Twain TOY. Not present was Christine Walker, Oak Grove and Elementary Grade-Span TOY.

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