Creating Better Policy

The Missouri legislature has passed a new bill aimed at significantly enhancing various aspects of the state’s education system that was signed into law by the Governor in May 2024. This comprehensive piece of legislation, titled Senate Bill 727, addresses a range of educational priorities from increased school funding and teacher salaries to standardized school terms and charter school expansion. 

In a courageous act of bipartisan leadership, three St. Louis Democratic legislators cast the final votes needed to pass the controversial and sweeping bill enabling a historic investment in all schools with a focus on teachers, early learning, and expanded choice. In this op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Missouri State Representative, Marlene Terry (D – St. Louis), shares what led her to take this courageous vote.

“My support for SB727 wasn’t about party politics. It was about doing right by our kids. I’m standing up for every student, parent, and teacher in Missouri. This bill is to support the systemic solutions families and teachers have demanded for a long time: increasing teacher pay, increasing funding for schools, and giving parents freedom to decide what’s best for their child’s education. And that’s way more important than politics.”

Here’s a breakdown of the key components of the law, and their potential impact on our region’s educational landscape.

Increases Minimum Teacher Compensation

Recognizing the critical role of teachers, the bill raises the minimum teacher salary to $40,000, and sets a future increase for teachers with a master’s degree and 10+ years of experience to a minimum of $48,000 per year by 2027. Additionally, it mandates annual salary adjustments based on the January Consumer Price Index report, with a cap of 3 percent per year​, and allows differentiated pay for hard-to-staff schools and subjects. This significant increase is backed by the creation of the Teacher Baseline Salary Grant Fund, ensuring that districts have the necessary resources to meet these new salary standards. This provision aims to attract and retain talented educators, enhancing the overall quality of education in Missouri.

Increases Equity in Funding for Public Schools

The bill requires changes that result in direct increases in funding for all public schools, especially those serving higher-needs student populations. By modifying the allocation of funding based on enrollment and attendance, the bill aims to create a more balanced and fair funding system. This approach addresses long-standing disparities and helps level the playing field for schools in underserved areas that often have more transient populations that struggle with attendance.

Doubles Funding for Preschool Programs and Literacy

SB727 doubles funding for early childhood education programs, laying a strong foundation for young learners. It also establishes the Elementary Literacy Fund to support grants for home reading programs, promoting literacy from an early age. These initiatives are crucial for fostering long-term academic success and improving overall literacy rates. Check out this blog from the STL Preschool Cooperative’s Dr. Samantha March, highlighting the impact of SB727 on pre-K families across the region.

Expands Charter Access and Other Choices For Families Across The State

The bill allows for the expansion of charter schools in central Missouri, in addition to current geographies of St. Louis and Kansas City. Additionally, the bill increases the maximum tax credit for individuals and businesses that donate to education savings accounts from $50 million to $75 million. Students qualifying for these scholarship accounts can utilize these funds to enroll in a public or private school outside of their district boundaries. The law also adjusts the scholarship distribution order, prioritizing students with special needs and those from low-income families. Lastly, the bill enhances the Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program, offering greater flexibility and accessibility for students who prefer or require virtual education. These measures are designed to cater to diverse learning needs and preferences, ensuring that every student can find a suitable learning environment.

Provides Additional Resources For Teacher Recruitment and Retention

The Urban Flight and Rural Needs Scholarship Program is renamed and expanded to the Teacher Recruitment and Retention State Scholarship Program. The program covers up to 100% of tuition costs for those eligible, encouraging more individuals to enter the teaching profession. It aims to address teacher shortages in hard-to-staff schools and subject areas, ensuring that every student has access to qualified educators.

Students at The Leadership School

Other provisions of the new law include:

School Term Adjustments: Standardizes minimum school days, effective from July 1, 2026. 

Mental Health and Attendance: With proper documentation, the department allows excused absences for mental or behavioral health concerns and protects students’ educational rights while attending to legal proceedings.

Overall, Missouri’s SB727 aims to address systemic inequities and enhance educational opportunities across Missouri. By increasing funding, improving teacher pay, and expanding educational choices, the bill seeks to create a more equitable and effective education system.

By revising the funding formula to prioritize high-need students and increasing financial support for districts serving disadvantaged communities, the bill ensures a more equitable distribution of resources. These changes are poised to enhance the quality of education for all students in Missouri, particularly those in underserved areas, and support the state’s commitment to educational excellence.

“The passage of these bills marks a major milestone in our efforts to strengthen Missouri’s education system for all students. This bill gives parents more choices in their child’s education, strengthens and protects funding for our public schools, and ensures every child receives a quality education, regardless of background,” – House Speaker Dean Plocher (R-Des Peres)

For a detailed look at the bill and its provisions, you can read the full text of the bill here. To show your support for the courageous leaders whose votes made this legislation possible, please send notes of encouragement to: