Arkansas lawmakers discussing ideas for teacher pay increases
HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - Lawmakers apart of a joint senate-house committee are meeting this week to discuss teacher pay in the state of Arkansas.
Despite the issue being discussed during a special legislative session in August, lawmakers took no action towards making any changes. Since then, school districts like Little Rock and Russellville have taken it upon themselves to raise teacher pay.
Teachers statewide have asked lawmakers to use the $1.6 billion surplus the state has to increase pay for teachers across the state. Arkansas Legislative Council voted to recommend a $5,000 bonus for teachers and a $2,500 reward for classified staff in late July. Those funds came from ESSER III American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds.
Local district leaders in north Arkansas have had mixed opinions about the decision.
“What we’re looking at is a temporary fix to a long-term problem,” said Dr. Stewart Pratt, superintendent of Harrison Public Schools. “It’s not an easy task, but the state needs to look at ways that we can address this to have a lasting impact.”
Dr. Pratt says legislators have the difficult task of formulating plans to meet the different needs of districts.
“Each one of those committee members, if you watch the video, they are providing input from their region. They have a very localized perspective,” he said in regards to Monday’s legislative session. “There are a million perspectives going on, on the floor today and yesterday. To find one system to meet all of those perspectives is very challenging.”
Harrison, like many other districts, is awarding bonuses to staff but anticipates a decision to form the joint committee in the next month.
“That’s what makes this so challenging is that some large districts can afford things and other districts can’t,” said Pratt. “How do you equally provide support across the state from the legislative side of things?”
State lawmakers debated various ideas to increase teacher pay during a committee meeting Monday, yet no decisions were made during more than two hours of discussion.
The committee was back in session at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Lawmakers must finalize a plan for Governor Asa Hutchinson by November 1.
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