Teachers are at the heart of our education system. They inspire hope and instill a love of lifelong learning.
The week of May 2 is National Teacher Appreciation Week. Now is a great time to show our appreciation to the 41,000 teachers across our state who put their passion and skills to work for our students.
The commitment and innovation of our teachers has helped our schools through one of the toughest times for education in recent years.
There are many ways Arkansans can show their appreciation, such as attending or planning events with your APE, sending heartfelt cards and messages, or offering discounts at your workplace.
Ensuring that our teachers feel valued and want to continue the profession are important factors in determining education funding. The House and Senate Education Committees are currently conducting a study on education adequacy. This study assesses the entire spectrum of public education to determine whether students have equal opportunity for an adequate education. Members spend a lot of time reviewing teacher salaries and recruitment as part of the study.
In 2019, the General Assembly passed a law increasing the minimum salary for teachers. During the last regular session, we passed Law 680 which aims to increase the average salary by creating the Teachers’ Salary Equalization Fund. The bill sets a statewide target average salary of $51,822 for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years. This bill would direct the Department of Education to distribute money from the Equalization Fund to districts with average teacher salaries below $51,822.
The General Assembly also regularly reviews ways to recruit more qualified teachers. In the 2021 regular session, we passed Bill 646 which provides that by August 1, 2022, every public school district and every public open-enrollment charter school in the state will prepare a recruitment and retention plan. teachers and administrators over three years. The law provides that the Department of Education will set goals to increase the number of racial and ethnic minority teachers and administrators in this state.
We will continue to explore ways to recruit and retain teachers in the months ahead. In the meantime, let’s all take a moment this week to let our teachers know how valuable their work has been in our communities.