Gov. Mike Parson celebrated the selection of a Mid-Missouri principal for a national honor, while also urging lawmakers during his State of the State speech Wednesday to pass legislation that would substantially improve the pay for Missouri's teachers.
Born, raised and now working in her home state, Beth Houf has become one of Missouri's top educators. Beginning her career as a teacher in 2000, Houf is now the principal of Fulton Middle School and is a facilitator for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).
On Wednesday afternoon, Parson recognized Houf for being named the 2022 national principal of the year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
"We know the vast majority of Missouri educators get it right day-in and day-out, and Ms. Houf is a shining example of someone who gets it right," Parson said.
After the speech, Houf said: "My roots are definitely here, but then I have the opportunity to work at the national level as well, to advocate for education, and then just to work and support other principals and really see what are national trends.
"It's really neat to see those things happening in central Missouri, too," she said.
Houf is the first principal in state history to receive the recognition, Parson noted in his address.
While the governor was proud to share other areas where the state is excelling in his address, he also recognized Missouri is ranked 50th in the nation for starting teacher pay.
"Half of our new teachers leave the profession by their fifth year," Parson said in the address. "This is unacceptable, and we must do better. That is why we are proposing to raise teacher pay in every corner of this state."
Parson's plan would raise the baseline salary for new teachers to $38,000 across the state.
"The governor hit the nail on the head; we've got to figure out how to recruit and retain quality educators for our kids," Houf said, also adding she believes base salary for teachers at Fulton Middle School is currently around $34,000.
The plan would provide state matching funds to local districts to increase the baseline educator salary, costing a total of $21.8 million.
Fulton Middle School, with around 550 students, has been very shorthanded on staffing recently, Houf noted.
"When we don't have quality people in classrooms, then the kids suffer," Houf said. "It all goes back to recruitment and retention."
"We've got to come together, and really, together we're better -- education is a partnership," she said.