Missouri Officials Discuss the Future of Education


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Missouri Governor Mike Parson, center, conducts a roundtable discussion at the University of Central Missouri that also includes, from left, Zora Mulligan, commissioner of higher education in Missouri; Roger Best, UCM president; Joanna Anderson, State Fair Community College president; and Kayla Hahn, the governor’s policy director.

  On Feb. 17, Missouri Governor Mike Parson visited the University of Central Missouri campus to engage in a roundtable discussion with various state and school officials across Missouri to examine the current state of affairs and ways to improve. In addition to speaking about education, the roundtable members discussed employment, infrastructure and COVID-19 issues that are currently affecting Missouri.

  A large part of the discussion included funding allocation, as Missouri’s proposed operating budget, which was between $33-34 billion this year, has increased to approximately $47 billion for fiscal year 2023.

  The governor’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes increasing higher education’s core funding by 5.4 percent for all public institutions, $31.5 million for MoExcels projects and $470 million to fund capital projects at state community colleges and four-year institutions. Parson also noted that about $20 million will go toward developing the 57 career centers in the state to help prepare high school students for the jobs of tomorrow. In addition, he proposed adding $7 million toward dual credit scholarships and $6 million in additional funds for A+ scholarships.

  The roundtable included UCM and State Fair Community College leaders, as well as representatives of the Warrensburg and Knob Noster school districts. It also included participation from the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce, Johnson County and Sedalia governance, economic development and industry representatives. The group discussed many internal problems and potential solutions, such as clean water, telemedicine and unemployment. An additional issue discussed was the low base pay for Missouri teachers. 

  “Currently, in the state of Missouri, the base pay for a teacher, K-12, is $25,000,” Parson said. “That is dead last in the United States. That’s $12 an hour … Half of them, within five years, leave.”

  According to the UCM registrar’s office, about 1,750 UCM students are pursuing a degree in education, so many current students will be affected by the base pay for teachers after graduation. Parson’s new plan is set to ensure Missouri students have access to quality education taught by dedicated and talented teachers.

  The roundtable group also discussed the lack of accessible childcare in Missouri, specifically how this affects the workforce, as many employees choose to stay home and watch their children.

  Parson’s policy director Kayla Hahn said that the new budget will allot $700 million for improving childcare services.

  “Those childcare investments can be in partnership such as innovation grants for businesses that might want to bring childcare on site, as we know that is definitely a need, or childcare facilities in partnership with our K-12 institutions, or even with our higher education institutions,” Hahn said.

  Another member at the roundtable, Zora Mulligan, the commissioner of Missouri’s Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development, said that this new plan for improvements will rely on partnerships between community organizations and schools.

  “The importance of collaboration with local community members to make sure that we can get these projects funded and make them be successful — that’s really been a part of the workforce development agenda from the beginning,” Mulligan said.

  Mulligan also said that Missouri has seen better results in securing additional funding when collaborations occur, so they encourage even more of these partnerships.

  Even though the state is facing many issues right now, Parson said he feels this is an exciting time for the future of Missouri because of the state’s positive financial position.

  “Financially, our state has been in the best shape it has been in a long time,” Parson said. “We’re going to be able to do things that we’ve talked about before that we’ve never been able to implement.”

  UCM President Roger Best said he was glad to have been part of the discussion to hear how these new ideas will benefit students.

  “We’re certainly grateful for the funding recommendations,” Best said. “We know that is critical to enhance access and affordability to our students, but [Parson] characterized it very well. It’s also about partnerships.”

  Parson noted the goals of his proposed budget, in combination with Missourians’ collaborative and determined efforts, will continue to strengthen the state’s economy and serve Missouri long after his term.