In February, the National Education Association released a survey showing that 55% of educators are thinking about leaving the profession earlier than they had planned. It was a big jump from the 37% who expressed the same sentiment just six months earlier.
This level of teacher dissatisfaction shouldn’t be surprising. Educators were already dealing with staff shortages, shortages then exacerbated by the pandemic.
This is an Opinion
About 10.6 million educators were working in public education in January 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now, there are just 10 million, a loss of about 600,000, the NEA reports.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson is proposing that the Arkansas Legislature, in a special session, consider raising teacher pay by at least $4,000 annually and raising the minimum salary to $46,000 from $36,000 in the 2022-23 school year. Such a plan would bring the average teacher salary to $60,000.
In discussing the pay raise proposal, Hutchinson rightly noted that teachers are critical to the success of Arkansas. “We need to continue to invest in our teachers and competitive pay is an important factor,” he said. “Lawmakers in Mississippi recently passed the largest teacher pay increase in their state’s history. To stay competitive and to combat a teacher shortage it is important that we evaluate what level of increase the state can afford.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, said Hutchinson’s proposal would cost about $333 million. “That’s a huge lift,” he said.
That figure, $333 million, is, indeed, a huge lift, but the state of Arkansas has a projected surplus of $1.47 billion for fiscal 2022, and teachers have been bearing a big burden for a long time now. A teacher pay raise would put some of that surplus to good use. Arkansas teachers deserve a lift.