Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed two companion bills that raise the average salaries of teachers in the state by some $2,000, the governor announced in a news conference at the State Capitol on Monday.
Senate Bill (SB) 504 and House Bill (HB) 1614, companion bills with identical language that are sponsored by State Sen. Missy Irvin and State Rep. Bruce Cozart, raise the average annual salaries of Arkansas teachers to just under $52,000 and set a system in place to ensure that average salaries will continue to increase through the end of 2025.
In his comments on Monday, the governor said that both bills work together to reduce the disparity between the highest and lowest median salaries in the state and move Arkansas towards “equalization” of its educational system. Additionally, the governor said that SB504 and HB1614 will help Arkansas to recruit more teachers.
The governor also used the bill signing to highlight the gains the state’s educational system has made through legislation this session. Citing multiple bills he signed that centered on educational issues, the governor said the attention that controversial legislation has received this session has diverted focus from the impactful education bills the legislature has passed.
“[Education] has sometimes gotten overshadowed in this session,” the governor said. “These are significant education bills [that have been signed] and [SB504 and HB1614] are the top of it all that is fundamental to our future.”
To fund the increase in teacher salaries across the state, $25 million will be earmarked to be distributed to eligible school districts who need assistance handling the increase in salaries. $15 million of the funding comes from the legislation the bill creates, while the remaining $10 million will come from a state educational trust fund, the governor said.
Monday’s conference was the first of back-to-back days of announcements from the governor. On Tuesday, the governor will hold his weekly COVID-19 update at 1:30 p.m.