ST. LOUIS – Missouri lawmakers are on the clock. They have until Friday to pass a budget that includes teacher pay raises. The state is the last in the nation for starting teacher pay. It currently sits at an average of just over $33,000.

Teacher salaries in Missouri would rise to a base level of $38,000 annually under a budget plan heading toward final approval in the House and Senate. This is part of a proposed $45.1 billion spending blueprint for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Budget negotiators agreed to insert $37 million to help school districts boost pay from the current nationally low base of $25,000, which is about $12 an hour. The increase had won earlier approval in the Senate, but not in the House. An additional $245 million in funding for schools is aimed at addressing staffing shortages that have led to almost one-fourth of the state’s school districts going to four-day school weeks. School transportation will be fully funded under the plan. The $214 million will give school districts a 70% match for at least the coming school year.

On teacher pay, negotiators had initially sought a lower amount to address rural school districts that were worried about the added cost. The budget also offers school districts $50 million in grants designed to help children recover from learning losses that occurred during school shutdowns because of the pandemic.

“Obviously people don’t go into teaching to get rich but they should be able to support themselves and make a decent living,” State Senator Lauren Arthur said.