NIXA, Mo.– Educators from across the Ozarks are calling on state lawmakers to address several education issues, including a pay raise for faculty.

Those in support gathered Friday in Nixa for a public education support rally. They are calling the movement, “Missouri Public Education Priority #1.”

Teachers from Nixa worked to organize the event that gathered around 65 people from the city, Springfield and Reeds Spring. They said the basis for the rally surrounds the National Education Association ranking Missouri as 50 in the nation when it comes to starting pay for teachers. 

“We’re a high-performing state, but we’re number 50 in pay,” said Brooke Gantt, an instructional specialist with Nixa Public Schools. “It just doesn’t match. I’m worried we’re not going to keep teachers. That they’re going to go the other surrounding states, that they’re going to choose other professions.”

Gantt said they are calling for increasing school budgets, raising salaries and for lawmakers to make Missouri public education a priority.

“It’s all of us coming together saying, listen, we’re not going to take anymore,” said Jessica Sterling, a teacher for Nixa Public Schools and rally organizer. “Missouri public education needs to be on the budget, and the priority of our state, in order for us to continue to flourish the way we have.”

Amid a teacher shortage in the state, organizers said it’s only necessary to demand a raise in salaries to keep and recruit teachers.

“I’m getting emails from teachers across our state that are literally starting out at $25,000 a year and that’s just unacceptable,” said Sterling.

Teachers said there are opportunities in upcoming elections to make a change on how priorities are established in Missouri’s budget. They said people need to understand that teachers are worth it.

“We love our students, but right now it’s hard to even survive in education,” said Gantt. Organizers said this is just the start of the movement for change.