Today members of the Democratic caucus released a public letter in support of teacher pay raises for the upcoming special legislative session. Several members from the opposing party also expressed support for educator raises but believe lawmakers should wait to address the issue next year instead. Democratic members, however, argue the issue should be taken up now.

Raises for educators should not be a partisan issue. In case you missed it, For AR People has circulated a petition calling on Governor Hutchison and state lawmakers to add public school employee raises to the special session call on August 8th. Over fifteen thousand Arkansans have signed the petition so far.

“In Arkansas, the starting teacher pay is $36,000 a year. Many other support staff – cafeteria workers, counselors, bus drivers, custodians, nurses, librarians, and so many more – make even less. Yours are full-time jobs that often extend beyond the workday. We see how hard you work… We believe that you should be paid a salary that reflects your professionalism, skills, and dedication… Low salaries for teachers and support staff make it tempting for you to cross state lines and grow the future leaders of our neighboring states. They have figured out your value and are actively recruiting you away from Arkansas, [like a] billboard in Little Rock advertising Dallas Independent School District annual salaries between $60,000- $102,000,” Democratic lawmakers write. 

Right now the issue of teacher raises during special session does have bipartisan support, with just under fifty lawmakers from both parties in favor of taking up raises now. But some members of the AR GOP have dug in their heels, homing in on exhaustive talking points regarding budget matrices, concerns for inflation, the role of districts, school boards, and more. It’s a distraction; legislators will try and pass sweeping tax cuts in August that will mostly benefit the wealthiest Arkansans. Tax cuts already take budget matrices and inflation into consideration. Are we supposed to believe lawmakers’ critical thinking skills are not applicable to educator pay raises, too? Do better, #arleg.