This week, I signed legislation that will increase the median salary of schoolteachers by $2,000 over the next two years. The raise is one way to show teachers we value their work, and this legislation was one of my top priorities. Senator Missy Irvin and Representative Bruce Cozart sponsored the bills that raised salaries.
As another priority, the 93rd General Assembly passed additional education-related laws including requiring a computer science credit to graduate from high school; increasing funding for school transportation; and requiring schools to teach Holocaust Education as well.
As an example of how the teacher salary bill works, the bill allocates nearly $800,000 to the El Dorado School District, where the money will have an immediate benefit. On Monday night, the El Dorado School Board voted to increase pay this fall by $2,000 for each of the 361 certified teachers and increasing the pay by 5.4 percent for each of the 241 classified employees.
Ashley Curtis, a teacher at El Dorado High School who also coaches ninth-grade basketball and track, is one of the teachers whose pay will increase. Ashley accompanied El Dorado Superintendent Jim Tucker to represent his district at the bill signing at the capitol on Monday. Ashley is a hard-working natural-born leader who is in the job for the right reasons, Superintendent Tucker said. But he can say that about every one of the teachers in the district, he added.
Another of our outstanding teachers and one of her first-grade students, Kamryn Gardner, has recently received national attention after Kamryn wrote a letter to a clothing manufacturer. Kamryn, who is seven-years-old, was more than a little put out upon discovering that the pockets on the front of her Old Navy jeans were strictly ornamental. She couldn’t put her hands or anything else in the sewn-on pockets.
In January, Ellie Jayne, Kamryn’s teacher at Evening Star Elementary in the Bentonville School District, taught her students how to write a persuasive letter. With the encouragement of her mother, Kim, who also teaches first grade, Kamryn put pencil to hand-writing paper to compose a letter to the company. She wrote: “Dear Old Navy. … I want front pockets because I want to put my hands in them. … Would you consider making girls jeans with front pockets that are not fake?”
A month later, Old Navy sent to Kamryn two pairs of shorts and two pairs of jeans with real front pockets and a letter of appreciation from the Old Navy Kids Team.
Ellie Jayne and Ashley Curtis are the caliber of teachers we recruit and hope to retain with competitive salaries such as the raise the 92nd General Assembly passed in 2019 for new teachers and this year’s increase of the median salary.
We know these teachers are special, as Superintendent Tucker said, because they don’t choose their profession for the money. Ellie treasures the opportunity to teach her students to ask questions responsibly and respectfully. Ellie is rightfully proud of Kamryn, who reports that the first thing she put in one of her new pockets was her hand and one of her drawings.
Kamryn’s parents, Kim and Brandon, are not surprised that their outgoing daughter is not going to rest on her success. She thinks that next she’ll write to the president to tell him that “throwing trash on the ground, there should be a law that you can’t do that.”
Asa Hutchinson is the governor of Arkansas. He is a Republican.