Call for higher teacher salaries in Arkansas
Democratic lawmakers have sent an open letter showing their support for teacher increases.
ARKANSAS, USA — Teacher pay in Arkansas is a hot topic right now with a special session starting in less than three weeks and with no teacher pay raises on the agenda. All Democratic lawmakers sent an open letter Monday, July 18, to Arkansas teachers and support staff letting everyone know they support a pay raise for teachers.
“We see neighboring states like Texas trying to recruit our teachers with much higher salaries. And we know looking back to 2021, we lost 24% of our teachers in the state and it was about 20% the year before. So we have a crisis here and we just think it needs to be resolved as soon as possible,” said Greg Leding.
A special session will begin on August 8 and these lawmakers and groups are calling for teacher raises to be on the agenda. Governor Asa Hutchinson had previously proposed using part of the surplus to raise the minimum salary for teachers, but that proposal did not gain support and the governor decided not to add the item to the agenda. day. Leding says that $1.6 million surplus is an incredible opportunity to invest in the state.
“There’s the argument that using it to raise teachers’ salaries is an ongoing expense and I understand that, but the tax cuts that a lot of my Republicans want to push through are also an ongoing expense and if we’re going treat the surplus this way, I would much rather invest it in public education than give tax relief to the wealthiest Arkansans,” he said.
Van Buren Representative Gary Deffenbaugh serves on the House Education Committee. He tells 5News that while he supports raising teachers’ salaries, he’s not sure using the excess money is the right way to do it. Our Little Rock station spoke last week to the chairman of that committee, Rep. Bruce Cozart, who said teacher compensation was on their radar, but not this special session.
“It’s not that we don’t want to raise teachers’ salaries, don’t get me wrong, that’s not it. It’s just that we have to do it the right way. Even if we raise the minimum salary bottom-up teachers, you know, they all come in and it costs money every year,” Rep. Bruce Cozart said.
Arkansas Education Association President Carol Fleming said now is the time to invest in public schools and they’re asking the governor to add that to the special session. She says Arkansas is second to last in the nation in certified teacher compensation.
“It’s time we pay educators the professional pay they deserve. In order to recruit and retain highly qualified people, we must pay them their worth.” If we pay a starting salary of $46,000, we become competitive with surrounding states,” she said.
On Tuesday, July 19, Republican lawmakers noted that there was about $500 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding that districts could use as bonuses for teachers. If you support teacher increases, we encourage you to reach out to your lawmakers and the governor and let them know you think this needs to be resolved in August.
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