While the legislature is looking at poorly funding school safety and implementing policies that have failed to make schools safer elsewhere, teacher pay remains unaddressed despite a critical teacher shortage. Yesterday, the School Safety Commission brought forth its recommendations to have more guns and armed guards in schools despite lacking evidence it actually helps while ignoring the cries of Arkansas teachers and support staff that the teacher shortage – driven primarily by the lack of a living wage and extra duties – is a dire situation. The commission recommended $50 million to cover its suggestions of adding more armed guards or school resource officers (SROs) and more guns on campuses (https://www.5newsonline.com/…/527-6b915707-c7f5-4028…).
There are about 261 school districts and 1061 schools in Arkansas. That means each school would get roughly $48,000 to implement the commission’s suggestions. For comparison, Westside School District pays a security director just over $69,000 and a SRO just over $41,000 (https://core-docs.s3.amazonaws.com/…/Classified…). Each school would also need the funds to upgrade locks and doors and invest in mental health resources. This would far exceed the allotment made for each school, requiring the school districts to use their own funds. As Rep. Nicole Clowney notes in the Arkansas Times article, there is no evidence that armed guards prevents gun violence – but as Sen. Greg Leding tweeted yesterday that at NCSL Summit, 63% of teachers would reconsider leaving if pay was increased and 36% would reconsider if they could just focus on core job responsibilities like teaching (https://twitter.com/GregLeding/status/1554554519370989568…). Republican priorities, y’all.
As your elected State Senator, I will push for Chris Jones’s education plan to be implemented to raise minimum teacher and support staff salaries to help lift new hires out of poverty. While bonuses are nice, they don’t solve the systemic issues that have been plaguing Arkansas since the last Huckabee administration.
I also support the RAISE Act which gives teachers a $4000 raise across the board and raises the minimum salary to $42,000. It will use $600 million of the $1.6 billion surplus, leaving $1 billion left. There’s still time to contact your elected leaders to tell them to support teacher and staff raises RIGHT NOW. If they can vote on the School Safety Commission’s recommendations in the special session, teachers and support staff deserve the same courtesy. Get everyone on record voting for or against desperately needed – and popular – raises instead of lining the pockets of the wealthy with tax cuts designed to primarily benefit them.