Springfield Public Schools could fine educators who break their contracts

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) — Keeping teachers in classrooms is a challenge not only across the country but right here in the Ozarks as well.

On Tuesday, the Missouri State Department of Education announced it would form a commission to look into the problem of teacher recruitment and retention.

At the local level, Springfield Public School leaders are proposing changes in the way they do business.

They have asked the school board to consider a penalty for anyone who prematurely breaks their employment contract.

“There has been a challenge hiring teachers for a number of years,” said John Mulford, Deputy Superintendent of Operations for Springfield Schools.

He says there are a few reasons it has been difficult to hire workers.

“What we’ve seen this year seems a bit unusual is people taking a completely different career path,” he said.

He believes the highly competitive job market is partly to blame.

“Unlike private industry, school districts cannot increase their cost of goods to pay wages,” Mulford explained.

But he says money isn’t the only problem.

“If you’ve never been in the classroom, you don’t really understand. I think what makes it difficult is that teachers care so much about their kids’ success and take it personally when kids don’t succeed. Then when you couple that with what I would call the attack on public education in the last year or two, it becomes difficult to retain people,” he said.

Administrators are seeking board approval to issue and enforce a financial penalty for any contracted district employee who chooses to break it.

The fee ranges from $1,000 to $3,000 depending on when an educator submits their resignation to leave the district.

“Our concern isn’t to stop people from taking advantage of an opportunity that’s good for them or their family, but to protect our students and our staff from people who decide to break their contract late in the game,” he said Mulford. “It’s hard work. They put their heart and soul into what they do. We just have to make sure we thank our educators for their dedication to our kids.”

Mulford says many other districts are beginning to enforce this policy as well.

He says the move is also being supported by teachers as staff shortages are not an ideal work environment.

The school board will decide on penalties later this month.

If the policy is approved, it will take effect immediately.

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