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Already understaffed and underpaid, Missouri’s teacher shortage is made worse by the pandemic

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The COVID-19 pandemic, poor pay, and inadequate resources for teachers have all been contributing factors to the teacher shortage that Missouri is facing.

There are myriad reasons for teacher shortages at all levels of education in Missouri. What is the state doing to fill the void?

Here in the Show-Me State, the vast majority of teachers say they are almost always stressed at their jobs, and it doesn't help that many educators are not paid well. The state ranks 44th in average teacher salary, but perhaps even more eye-opening is its last place ranking in starting pay for teachers.

Dr. Paul Katnik is the assistant commissioner in the Officer of Educator Quality, a branch of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). He says over the course of the last few years, enrollment in teacher education programs is going down. Meanwhile, retention of teachers who are already practicing is also substantially lower than it was before.

"It just basically means that we don't have the supply to meet the demand," he explains.

Mallory McGowin is the chief communications officer for the DESE. She believes there are two sides of the coin when it comes to the state improving its recruitment and retention of teachers. One side is obvious – raising teacher pay to be more competitive.

But, the other side, says McGowin, is just as important.

"How do we elevate this profession? How do we show teachers that we're committed to exploring the levels of support they receive from their school leaders?"

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
Elizabeth Ruiz is a freelance producer for KCUR’s Up To Date. Contact her at elizabeth@kcur.org or on Twitter at @er_bentley_ruiz
As Up To Date’s associate producer, I construct daily conversations that give our listeners context to the issues of our time. I strive to provide a platform that holds those in power accountable, while also spotlighting the voices of Kansas City’s creatives and visionaries that may otherwise go unheard. Email me at zach@kcur.org.
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