Do you know a teacher?
My grandmother was a school teacher in Oil Trough in the 1940s. My mother-in-law is a retired math teacher, and her mother is a retired elementary school teacher. My husband is a physics professor, and his paternal grandfather is a retired high school mechanics teacher. His paternal uncle teaches in higher education as well. And while not a teacher, his maternal grandfather is a retired school maintenance handyman/bus driver. When I’m not taking classes, I’m teaching them as a science adjunct instructor. As you can tell, being an educator is something of a family tradition for me.
Our teachers are frontline workers. Often they are the first on campus and the last to leave. Their duties extend past just teaching a course or subject; they often offer emotional support. They pay for things out of their own pockets because their budgets are so small. They are overworked and underpaid. Many schools don’t hire enough teachers to cover the number of students they have while the amount of administrators goes up. Governor Asa Hutchinson recognizes this is not sustainable and has been advocating to increase teacher salaries, putting forth an effort to reward our teachers and their efforts. It’s not just Arkansas recognizing the need to recruit and retain educators. Our neighbor, Mississippi, passed the SMART Act on Wednesday which raises teacher salaries by $4,000 to $6,000, raises base salaries by $4,700, and raises teachers’ assistants pay by $2,000. (https://www.wtok.com/…/house-passes-pay-raise-teachers…/)
My extremist opponent, in the comments of one of his most recent Facebook posts, has suggested that he will try to fix our state’s out of control spending. Given the image he shared (shown below), it doesn’t take a math guru to see he’s implying too much of our “tax dollar” goes to education (public schools and higher ed). Do you want to see a cut to education to fund more prisons or more military-type equipment for police departments? Do you want to see a cut to education to give the wealthiest Arkansans or biggest corporations a tax cut?
This is simply not the solution for the problems Arkansas faces. We should be putting more of our tax dollars towards education. K-12 schools need more qualified teachers, and we are facing a massive qualified teacher shortage. Increasing base pay and giving current teachers a raise, like Mississippi, is a great place to start to recruit and retain Arkansas talent. Increasing department budgets would also help as well to take the load off of our school teachers from having to purchase supplies for their classrooms out of pocket.
Another solution is making community college free for all Arkansans. For a student to graduate from high school already with a community college degree will help speed up the process of getting qualified workers in the workforce. Many community colleges have vocational programs such as nursing, welding, and advanced manufacturing, but they also offer programs that cover the first two years of a four year degree, including education. This will help relieve the strain of paying for college out of pocket for people living paycheck to paycheck and helps level the playing field for everyone.
Lastly, more funds need to be allocated to schools to buy the proper resources needed to help mitigate the spread of COVID so teachers don’t have to pay out of pocket. This can include N95 masks for all faculty and staff (and ideally students as well), DIY air filtration systems to improve ventilation, and cleaning supplies.
Education is a pillar to our society. We shouldn’t be trying to break it down but strengthen it so future generations have a better foundation.
If you support my stance on education, consider making a donation to my campaign: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/chenoa4ar