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Arkansas panel backs bid to raise minimum teacher salaries

The Arkansas House Education Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to endorse proposed legislation that seeks to raise minimum teacher salaries in Arkansas over the next four years. (Photo: KATV)

An Arkansas House panel has endorsed a proposal to raise minimum teacher salaries in the state by $4,000 over the next four years.

The House Education Committee on Tuesday approved the bill that would raise the minimum teacher salary districts must pay to $36,000 by the 2022-2023 school year. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has called for setting aside $60 million for school districts that are paying less than the new minimum requirements to comply with the legislation.

Despite unanimous approval, several committee members raised concerns about what happens when the money currently set aside to help districts comply with HB 1145 runs out.

"Everybody wants to give their teachers more money, but their superintendents started saying - well how about the funding in four years," said Rep. Bruce Cozart, (R-Hot Springs) - the bill's primary sponsor. "So that's why it's up to our adequacy committee and our adequacy study to bring that pay up to what it's going to take to match that and beyond."

Tracey Ann Nelson, executive director of the Arkansas Education Association, called the move to raise teacher salaries, "a first step towards the needs of school districts across the state of Arkansas."

"We know salary is just one component of what schools need, and we're not trying to act as if that's not important - but we believe there needs to be a holistic approach to school funding - adequacy is the mechanism that does that," said Nelson.

The measure now heads to the full House, where more than 90 of the chamber's 100 members have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.

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