Chris Jones believes that teachers deserve competitive salaries to support and attract the highly qualified teachers that parents and kids are asking for. Teachers give children purpose, set them up for success as citizens of our world, and inspire in them a drive to do well and succeed in life. Unfortunately, Arkansas is faced with a teacher shortage due to many factors such as low pay and lack of resources and funding.
According to the Economy Policy Institute, teachers earned 11.1% less than other workers with comparable education and experience. And, after recent pay increases, Arkansas teachers make less than any other state in the region. The lack of funding is evident in many of the factors that contribute to the teacher shortage and the declining attractiveness of teaching, such as low pay relative to other college-educated professionals, challenging working conditions, inadequate resources, and professional development. Pensions have also been a critical factor in both attracting teachers to the profession and retaining them as teachers.
Past pay raises have been initially funded by the state, but have eventually left districts without the means to continue the payment. Further changes need to be conscious of funding sources, particularly for smaller and less well off districts around the state. Sustainable funding sources for pay raises and teacher support must be simultaneously implemented with increases in support.
Every Arkansas student, regardless of where they live, deserves a quality education. Ensuring protections geared towards pay, resources, and pension funds will allow teachers the ability to help move Arkansas towards a more equitable future.
To protect teacher pay, resources, and retirement, Chris Jones would:
Raise the floor by increasing starting teacher pay to $46,000 ($50,000 by 2027) and increasing average pay for educational staff by $1000 more a year.
Close the gaps by raising the average teacher salary statewide to $50,000 and creating a Rural Teacher Incentive Program to address the gaps between urban and rural districts.
Increase public funding for education to address long-standing concerns about outdated facilities and inadequate supplies and ensure availability of funding for teacher pay.
Strengthen the current Arkansas’ Teacher Retirement System that would ensure steadier accrual patterns and provide adequate benefits to all teachers.
Invest in professional supports that strengthen teachers’ sense of purpose, career development, and effectiveness.