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Proposed bill could raise minimum teacher salaries in Arkansas

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LITTLE ROCK (KATV) -- State representative and high school teacher Sonia Eubanks Barker knows first hand the challenges educators face.

"It doesn't matter if the student is in Pre-K or a senior about to graduate. Every good teacher wants the best for their students, and that's a lot of work on one teacher," she said.

But the current minimum salary for an entry level teaching position in Arkansas starts at just over $31,000, and state representative Bruce Cozart says that is not enough.

"Our teachers in general are underpaid," Rep. Cozart said. "They are professionals. They need to be treated as professionals, and they need to be paid like professionals."

For teachers who are paid the minimum, Rep. Cozart says the proposed Teacher Salary Enhancement Act will create a new salary schedule which will increase their salaries over a period of time.

"The governor came up with a plan he wanted to see done over a four year period and bring that up $4,000, which is basically $1,000 a period," he said.

Rep. Cozart says the money will come from the Education Excellence Trust Fund.

After four years, he says the money will come from the districts.

"We have added money year to year for our teachers, but this money has to go to their salaries, so they will really see the benefits of this," Rep. Cozart said.

For teachers like Rep. Barker, she says educators deserve more, but it's still a step in the right direction.

"I hope this will help show teachers they are appreciated and valued," she said.

Rep. Cozart says it's all part of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's plan to improve education.

He says if passed, this bill will only affect the districts that are not meeting that minimum teacher salary mark.

If passed, the Teacher Salary Enhancement Act will go into effect for the 2019-2020 school year.

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