I have heard a lot of bellyaching lately in Missouri about how we need more money for education. However, little has been said about the other side of the coin — spending. As we have seen with recent audits of the Rockwood School District and the Early Childhood Development, Education, and Care Fund, not all of our dollars are being spent wisely. Yet, $22,500 for an in-home child care facility that has no children is just a drop in a bucket compared to another boondoggle that is staring us in the face in the form of automatic pay raises for teachers who receive a master’s degree.
A 2009 study by the Center on Reinventing Public Education estimated that Missouri is spending an extra $146,603,923 to fund the bump received when a teacher earns a master’s degree. The problem is that there is no evidence that earning a master’s degree actually makes a teacher better in the classroom. I can say this as someone who has studied the issue thoroughly and as someone who earned a master’s degree while teaching. Moreover, many teachers are receiving bumps for degrees, like administration, that will simply take them out of the classroom.
The master’s degree bump draws money away from other worthy endeavors that might improve educational outcomes for students. The editorial board of the Des Moines Register gets this. They recently wrote, “If Iowa truly wants to spend education money wisely, such automatic pay increases for teachers should be rethought.”
North Carolina recently moved to eliminate the master’s bump. Maybe Missouri school districts should follow that lead.