Governor Hutchinson’s Weekly Speech | Supporting our Teachers
Governor Hutchinson’s weekly radio address can be found in MP3 format and can be downloaded HERE.
LITTLE STONE – The Arkansas education system depends heavily on our ability to attract and retain teachers. We need to make sure the salary reflects the importance of their work and our respect for their role in shaping the lives of the next generation of leaders.
When the pandemic affected the world, our schools were heavily burdened. Education does not fail even when things feel uncertain.
Arkansas is one of the few states that keeps schools open thanks to the amazing teachers in our state. In fact, Arkansas ranked #2 in the nation for class teaching days during the pandemic. That puts us ahead of Texas and Florida. And so, we need to be able to provide for those who are willing to lead the lines for the future of our children.
The teacher salary has been one of my top priorities since running for Governor in 2014. Since then, we have raised the minimum teacher salary to be in line with most of our surrounding states.
In 2019, I signed the Teacher Enhancement Act taking our minimum wage to $ 31,400 and raising it to $ 36,000 per year by 2022.
This improvement is necessary for our teachers, but it is not enough. Arkansas still ranks 48th in the nation for starting teacher salaries even after the hike. 88% of our school districts start with teachers with a salary of under $ 40,000. We are 14th out of 16 states in our region for minimum starting salary, and 13th out of 16th we rank for average salary. Nearly 70% of all of our teachers earn less than $ 40,000 a year.
Our goal is to have 100% of our teachers earn more than $ 40,000. We know teachers are important, but we need to show them why Arkansas is a place they want to teach and live.
For that reason, we need to give our school districts more resources to recruit teachers. We have seen firsthand how providing the right resources can deliver as much progress as we have seen in the Computer Science initiative.
In 2015, we started the initiative with less than 50 computer science teachers in Arkansas. By providing additional resources and incentives, we now have more than 650 certified computer science teachers with many to come in the fall. We moved from less than 1,000 students learning about computer science to over 12,000 with an increase in number each year.
There has been hesitation by some in the General Assembly to raise teacher salaries due to concerns of a future economic downturn. We now have over $ 2 billion in state reserves and our surplus.
I am confident in our future ability to fund these initiatives, but the General Assembly controls the purses of the state government, and I respect their constitutional role. Even if we can’t do it this year I hope it remains a priority in the future.
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