October 15, 2009

Declining State Budget Could Cut Career Ladder Program for Teachers

A valuable program helping students take steps to better learning across Missouri, including right here in Scotland County, is in jeopardy of losing important state funding.

The Career Ladder Program, which rewards teachers for added hours working with students before and after school, is a hot topic of discussion in Jefferson City, where lawmakers are faced with declining revenue projections that are forcing difficult budget choices.

With many concerns about Career Ladder Funding, I wanted to tell you that we do not anticipate cutting Career Ladder funding, said First District State Representative Brian Munzlinger. But since it is paid in arrears, I feel we owe it to our teachers to warn you about the budget situation and the possibility of a cut so that you dont complete work that you might not get paid for.

Munzlinger stated he supports funding for the program and feels it should be one of lawmakers priorities as it goes through the budget process and gets weighed against all other state obligations and projects.

This next year will be a tough budget year unless the economy turns around and I dont feel it can do it soon enough, he said. For the past four years, we have been taking the lead when it comes to providing Missouri children with a quality education.

The Career Ladder Program has been in place for nearly a decade at SCR-I. Eligible teachers participate at one of three levels based on their experience. Instructors must have a minimum of five years teaching experience to qualify.

Stage one calls for instructors to provide at least 60 hours of structured extra-duties for students that meet goals as established by documented and approved career development plans (CDP).

After successfully completing two years of Stage I and fulfilling the CDP, teachers can climb the ladder to Stage II, where teachers provide 90 hours of extra service. After three years at Stage II, teachers can again climb the ladder to stage three, where they offer 120 hours of extra duty to students of the district.

The Career Ladder pays teachers at Stage 1, $1,500 in addition tot he regular salary. Stage II pays $3,000 with teachers at Stage III earning $5,000 per year. Currently roughly half of that stipend is paid by state funding, with the district footing the bill for the remainder of the costs.

According to SCR-I Superintendent Dave Shalley the district has excellent participation in the program, with nearly every eligible instructor participating. The SCR-I Career Ladder is currently providing 3,200 additional hours of instruction for SCR-I students.

Nearly 1,000 of these hours involve the creation of a variety of extra-curricular groups a such as art, math and computer club, reading and book exchange groups, before and after school band and much more.

The Career Ladder also consists of more than 900 hours of student tutoring by the teachers. Teachers also offer expanded parent conference hours, perform curriculum development and seek professional development.

Basically this program financially rewards teachers for expanding their classrooms beyond the traditional school hours, Shalley said.

Shalley noted that state funding cuts would not necessarily mean the end of the very popular program, but very likely would limit its future.

If you cut the pay in half, the likely result is you will be cutting the teachers career ladder hours in half as well, he said.

In addition to obvious concerns regarding the educational impact of such a cut, Shalley also highlighted the negative results the loss of Career Ladder funding would have on the districts recruitment and retention efforts for faculty members.

He noted not all schools participate in the Career Ladder, meaning those schools that do, can offer supplemental income for teachers. In SCR-Is case that can help offset lower starting salaries, compared to the rest of the state.

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