For every teaching job opening in the public schools in Springfield, Mo., 144 people apply.

District officials believe a competitive salary and benefits package is the biggest reason why so many people apply, according to a report from the Springfield News-Leader.

Teacher pay in Springfield starts at $34,088 and tops out $64,240 for those with 30 years' experience and a doctoral degree. The benefits package includes 13 sick days, and the district pays 100 percent of the health care premiums for its 3,900 employees.

Though the Springfield district -- which is one of the largest of Missouri's 520 districts -- has one of the better benefits package, its starting pay and top pay for teachers barely makes the top 100 in the state.

Of the 20 largest districts in Missouri, or those with 10,000 students or more, Springfield's starting pay was ranked at the very bottom, according to the News-Leader.

The district's chief human resources officer, Parker McKenna, told the newspaper that the Springfield district wants to be "as competitive as possible."

For the 2014-15 year, the board has set aside a record $7.95 million to "improve staff salaries and benefits and the details are currently being worked out through collective bargaining," according to the News-Leader.

"Our goal is to get the most qualified candidate for every position," McKenna said. " [...] Salary is yet another tool."

Annual salary reports from the Missouri National Education Association and the Missouri State Teachers Association show starting teacher pay in the region ranges from a low of $25,000 in a small amount of smaller districts — those with just a few hundred students — to a high of $37,000 in Webb City, a district with more than 4,100 students, according to the News-Leader.

Parkway — which is in the St. Louis area — is one of the largest districts. It has the highest starting salary: $41,500.

The average per capita income in Springfield, the state's third-largest city, with a population of around 160,000, is around $18,000, according to 2010 U.S. Census Data.

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