Texas school district advertising for teachers in Arkansas
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KARK/KAIT) – As teachers across Arkansas continue to struggle with low pay, a Dallas school district is using billboards in Little Rock to help with recruiting.
“It’s enticing,” said one teacher.
According to content partner KARK, the billboards note Texas’ starting teacher salary is $60,000, while Arkansas’ minimum salary is $36,000.
Arkansas ended its fiscal year with a $1.6 billion surplus. Now some are calling for an upcoming special session to include discussions about pay raises for teachers. However, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said that will not likely happen, with other lawmakers thinking the special session is not the place to decide on the raises.
“It’s not so much that it’s not thinking teachers deserve a pay raise, it’s a question of how education dollars are being spent, and why aren’t they being spent on the classroom,” said State Senator Bob Ballinger (R).
Ballinger said fears about an economic recession also play a role in Republicans’ problems with this. He said he would have preferred to see one-time bonuses passed like those given to law enforcement, but he does not think it would have legislative support.
“I think every year since I’ve been in the legislature since my first, which was under a Democratic governor, I think we have done some form of teacher pay increase,” he said.
Some Democratic legislators said they think the special session makes sense as a method to approve these pay increases.
“We know that teachers are, particularly here in the state of Arkansas, criminally underpaid,” said State Rep. Monte Hodges (D).
Hodges, who represents parts of Crittenden and Mississippi Counties, said he would support substantial bonuses for teachers because of their commitment to education during the pandemic. He added he fears not addressing this could result in a statewide teacher shortage.
“Mississippi just passed a salary increase for their teachers,” Hodges said, referencing legislation passed in March raising that state’s minimum salary to $37,000. “[Surrounding state’s] salaries are higher than the state of Arkansas.”
A teacher said he would consider moving to Texas because of the information shared on the billboards.
“My oldest son’s got three years left of school,” the teacher said. “I won’t make the transition until he graduates, but three years isn’t that long.”
A one-time bonus, he said, would send the right message: “Educators are valued in Arkansas”.
“I really think they need to change their priority and put more emphasis on taking care of the teachers,” the teacher said.
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