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Missouri education department loosens restrictions for teacher certifications

This comes amid a widespread teacher shortage.

ST. LOUIS — Missouri is still battling a widespread teacher shortage.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is making it easier for teachers to become certified.

"The pandemic hit, and I have to say our teachers and school-related personnel have been heroes during this time," St. Louis Public Schools union spokesperson Bryan Clemons said.

DESE is now only considering your GPA related to coursework in order to become a teacher.

"We're not only bringing more people into the workforce itself, but we're actually trying to address some of the persistent shortages we're seeing in those content areas," DESE spokesperson Paul Katnik said.

Katnik said they noticed the required score for teachers was denying many people from becoming one. Now, they'll accept teachers who score just a few questions below the required score.

He also said many of the teachers missing just those one or two questions were planning on going into areas with the most amount of shortages right now.

Clemons said Missouri schools are especially feeling this struggle. 

"In April 2022, we ranked 50th in the nation in teacher salary, 49th in the nation in terms of state funding."

According to Katnik, teacher shortages are especially apparent in underserved communities. Loosening restrictions could ease that gap.

"We've had more shortages in our urban areas and our deeply rural places," he said. "But it's really becoming most school districts are finding areas they have to fill and are having trouble doing that."

Both echoed it's important to remember teachers do much more than teach.

"Sometimes teachers are filling in as social workers, counselors, and friends," Clemons said. "Trying to do all that and teach at the same time. So as much support as we can get for everybody."

More improvements could still be underway. The teachers union wants to see "wrap-around" services that would help families and children. Meanwhile, DESE is pushing their recruitment campaign, "Teach Missouri," to provide better resources for Missouri educators.

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