On July 28, Democrats in both the Arkansas House and Senate revealed a strategy to address the issue of teacher compensation in the state. The proposed legislation, which would be known as the “Raising Arkansas’s Investment in Schools and Educators” (RAISE) Act, would establish a fund using $600 million of the projected $1.6 billion surplus.
In order to handle the state’s budget excess, Governor Asa Hutchinson has requested that a special session of the legislature be held the week of August 8. Hutchinson indicated that the purpose of the session was to lower the tax collection rate in Arkansas when he made the announcement. Educators have requested that salary increases for teachers be considered during this session, noting the relatively lower compensation that Arkansas teachers get in comparison to the rest of the area. To thus far, Hutchinson has ignored the requests that the special session agenda include a discussion of the salaries of teachers. The RAISE Act is an attempt to circumvent these obstacles to progress.
The RAISE Act would, if passed into law, establish a sustainability fund with an initial balance of $600 million drawn from the surplus. Currently, the minimum wage for teachers is $36,000, and the fund would be used to raise it to $42,000. The same kind of fund was used in order to establish a salary raise for teachers in the year 2019.