Democrat Chris Jones lays out plan to raise teacher pay to $50,000

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 2,363 views 

Chris Jones at the podium.

Against the backdrop of historic Central High School in Little Rock, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Chris Jones outlined Tuesday (July 19) a plan to raise teacher and staff pay in public schools and to close gaps on a growing teacher shortage.

Jones said the state should use up to $400 million of its $1.6 billion state surplus to provide an immediate teacher bonus, raise minimum teacher salaries this August, and raise them again by $4,000 by the end of his first term, if elected.

His plan includes:

  • Paying a one-time surplus bonus for teachers and staff between $1,000-$2,500 per school employee;
  • Raising minimum teacher pay to $46,000 this August;
  • Raising the pay to $50,000 per year by the end of his first term; and
  • Adding $4,200 in pay to those teachers and staff already making $46,000 or more.

“Arkansans want us to meet this moment and rise to this occasion. We have a record state surplus of $1.6 billion dollars. It’s common sense that we invest in our children’s education and our teachers. I am putting forward my Teacher Pay Plus Plan as a commitment to Arkansas voters, to demonstrate that I am dedicated to supporting achievable, common ground, bipartisan work. It’s about our values and about smart investments. We can raise the floor and close the gaps in teacher pay and education across our great state,” said Jones.

He called on his general election opponent, Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to offer her vision for teacher pay. The Sanders campaign has yet to comment on the subject publicly.

Gov. Hutchinson has said he does not plan to add teacher pay raises to his call for a Aug. 8 special session to accelerate tax cuts due to the budget surplus. Hutchinson said legislative support did not exist for teacher pay increases in the special session. On Monday, all 29 Democratic legislators signed a letter calling for teacher pay to be included in the discussion and advocating for Hutchinson’s increase in pay to $46,000. Republican budget leaders contend the state should follow a legislative adequacy study process before instituting pay increases for teachers and educational staff.

Arkansas is lagging in teacher pay compared to surrounding states. It is also dealing with an exodus of teachers from the profession.