Education bills set to increase Arkansas teacher salaries

A. Drew Smith
Fort Smith Times Record

In the season of the Arkansas Legislature, several education bills were signed into law. The latest of these will give teachers a raise and make Arkansas a competitive recruiting state.

Senate Bill 504 and the companion House Bill 1614 were written to establish and use an educational trust fund so that the statewide average salary can be increased by approximately $2,000 so that the new average will be $51,822.

According to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, this is a big boost for rural school districts so that they can get the best teachers into their schools.

"This is really moving toward equalization," said Hutchinson. "Equitable education across Arkansas."

Hutchinson also noted that these bills will help make Arkansas competitive in the surrounding region and help draw in new teachers from surrounding states and across the country.

In Fort Smith Public Schools, the starting salary is $38,500 for a certified teacher. If the individual has a master's degree, their starting salary is $45,430 and if they have a doctorate, their starting salary is $52,360. These numbers are for Step 1 teachers and the salary scale goes all the way up to Step 21.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, seen in Fort Smith in January, spoke out Monday in favor of Senate Bill 504 and the companion House Bill 1614  to establish and use an educational trust fund that will increase the state-wide average salary for teachers by $2,000 so that the new average will be $51,822.

According to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, this is a big boost for rural school districts so that they can get the best teachers into their schools.

The average salary across the state will stand for reevaluation every two years. The goal is to make sure schools are paying their teachers well enough to encourage others to become teachers.

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The El Dorado School District in south Arkansas has a salary increase on its school board agenda for Monday night in anticipation of this bill being passed. Hutchinson said this means approximately $700,000 worth of funding will go to that district in order to improve education due to the bills that have been passed by this General Assembly.

Hutchinson said funding for this salary increase will come from adequacy funding and the newly formed educational trust fund.

Arkansas Education Secretary Johnny Key also noted his excitement at the passage of the bill, commenting that this would make Arkansas competitive in recruiting teachers.