Missouri rural schools face funding and teacher shortages

Rural School Funding and Money Issues news graphic
Share To Your Social Network

Missouri’s rural public schools, comprising nearly half of the state’s educational institutions, serve over one-fifth of Missouri’s students. Yet, these schools face a funding challenge, with less than $6,000 spent per rural pupil. This amount represents only 81% of the average expenditure in rural areas across the United States.

The National Rural Education Association’s (NREA) 2023 report, ‘Why Rural Matters,‘ identifies Missouri as a critical state due to its funding constraints and a teacher shortage caused by low salaries. Allen Pratt, the NREA executive director, emphasizes the need for changes in state legislative policy to address these shortcomings in rural education funding, while also recognizing Missouri’s strengths.

A positive aspect noted by Pratt is Missouri’s high enrollment in public preschools, with the state ranking 41st – inversely placing it near the top 10. The NREA report also points out that students in Missouri’s rural districts are more likely to graduate high school compared to their non-rural peers, owing to unique strengths like smaller schools and close community connections.

To combat teacher shortages, Missouri State University has implemented the Pathways for Paras Project. This initiative, also adopted by states like Tennessee, is a federally registered apprenticeship program. It enables para-educators and teacher assistants to retain their school positions while fast-tracking towards a four-year teaching degree.

Pratt views the rural education challenges in Missouri as an opportunity for workforce development. He suggests expanding the pool of teacher applicants by targeting populations not traditionally considered for teaching roles. The MSU program supports this approach by allowing students to earn salaries and college credits simultaneously, including an option for 100% online study.

Share To Your Social Network