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Arkansas Governor Signs Teacher Salary Increase Into Law

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, surrounded by Arkansas lawmakers and educators, signs the two bills into law Monday during a ceremony at the state Capitol.
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Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a pair of identical bills Monday that will raise the state’s median teacher salaries by $2,000 and create a fund to help lower-paying districts reach that amount.

Senate Bill 504 by Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, and House Bill 1614 by Rep. Bruce Cozart, the chairs of the Senate and House Education Committees respectively, will raise the target median teacher salary to $51,822 for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years. The House and Senate Committees afterwards would jointly set the statewide target median salary.

It also provides $25 million to create a Teacher Salary Equalization Fund that will provide $185 per student in districts that are below the median salary. According to the legislation, the gap between the highest average salary, $60,963, and the lowest of $39,578 was $21,385.

Hutchinson said $15 million will come from adequacy funding passed by the Legislature, while $10 million will come from the educational adequacy trust fund.

The bill will mean an additional $800,000 for the El Dorado School District. Superintendent Jim Tucker said school board members were scheduled to vote that night on a teacher salary increase in anticipation of the funding.

“Teachers deserve to be fairly compensated,” Tucker said. “Teachers deserve more than what they get. They are the lifeline of our state, and I am very, very happy about this bill and am excited for our teachers in the El Dorado School District.”

Hutchinson said the new law is one of numerous education bills he has signed this session. Others that he specifically mentioned were the following:

  • Act 400 by Cozart, which increases school transportation funding
  • Act 622 by Rep. Jamie Scott, D-North Little Rock, which requires districts that have school resource officers to have a memorandum of understanding with local law enforcement agencies and creates training requirements for school law enforcement personnel
  • Act 620 by Cozart, which requires school districts to conduct school safety audits every three years
  • Act 513 by Rep. DeAnn Vaught, R-Horatio, which allows the granting of teaching licenses to undocumented immigrants with a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) exemption
  • Act 414 by Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, which adds a requirement that high school students earn a computer science credit in order to graduate
  • Act 611 by Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, which requires the Holocaust to be taught in schools
Steve Brawner is a freelance journalist and contributor to Talk Business & Politics.