A wide-ranging education bill cleared the Missouri House this week that includes a boost to minimum teacher salaries from $25,000 to $38,000. 

The bill also seeks to increase the amount the state can give school districts for each years’ operating budget.

The bill now heads to the Missouri Senate. 

Missouri ranks 50th in average starting teacher salary, according to the National Education Association.

Under the legislation passed by the House Tuesday, the state would pay for 70% of a teachers’ salary increase for four years. But because the bill places more money into the funding formula for schools, districts should be able to afford the full salary increase in the future, bill sponsor Rep. Ed Lewis, R-Moberly, said during debate on the proposal.

The bill also seeks to establish scholarships for students who commit to teaching in hard-to-staff positions post-graduation, but this provision isn’t appropriated yet.

Lewis said the scholarship funding is included in the budget approved by the House last week and currently before the Senate. 

“We wanted to make sure we could recruit and retain teachers with this scholarship,” he said.

The fiscal note on the bill says that, when fully implemented in fiscal year 2032, the cost would be between $277.4 million and $314.8 million.

The bill passed on a 145-5 vote. The lone Democratic “no” Rep. Kevin Windham, D-St. Louis, said he opposed the bill because of a provision added to enable more school staff to serve as school protection officers.

Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern, D-Kansas City, said she voted in favor of the bill to “get more dollars into the classroom.” But she said provisions added to the bill as amendments, like the “Stop the Bleed” program that would require tourniquets in every classroom, fail to solve problems.

“Saying that that’s the state that we’re in right now is that we have to recognize that in every single classroom, we have to have the need to stop students from hemorrhaging and dying and bleeding to death instead of actually addressing the gun violence in our state is incredibly problematic,” Nurrenbern said.

Other amendments added to the bill during House debate include the development of a high school personal-finance course and a raise for retired educators who return to the classroom as substitute teachers.

Districts would also be allowed to create differentiated salary schedules to incentivize filling hard-to-staff positions and schools.

The bill also folds in Neosho Republican Rep. Ben Baker’s “Extended Learning Opportunities Act,” which would require districts to inform students of opportunities to earn school credits outside of the classroom.

Missouri Independent is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Missouri Independent maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jason Hancock for questions: info@missouriindependent.com. Follow Missouri Independent on Facebook and Twitter.