LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Take a quick scroll through social media Friday and you will quickly see Governor Sanders’ new omnibus education reform bill is at the top of people’s minds in Arkansas, especially teachers.
This comes just two days after Sanders announced her LEARNS plan (Literacy, Empowerment, Accountability, Readiness, Networking, Safety).
A spokesperson for Sanders said they are still waiting to see the completed bill themselves, pending final approval.
Right now, summaries of it are all over social media, claimed to come from leaked draft pages of the bill, though Sanders’ administration could not confirm this. As a result, there are some question marks among educators as we await the full text of the legislation to be released.
Governor Sanders did release the basic contents of the bill on Wednesday during her press conference.
For teachers, this is said to be a $50,000 base salary. That is an increase from the current $36,000 minimum.
Anyone making under that will be brought up to that same salary, and those making more would get a $2,000 raise.
The plan also noted that “good teachers” could be eligible for a $10,000 bonus. In her press conference Wednesday, she said that will be determined based on performance and the teachers making the most impact.
No details regarding teacher pay have been released beyond this, including any clarification on any gradual increases in salary, including for long-time educators.
LRSD teacher, Leron McAdoo said based on the number of years he has spent in the classroom, he fears there would be no reward for those with a longer history in teaching.
“Being in the educational system for 30 years, I appreciate the fact that there is a tiered system,” McAdoo said, referring to his current salary plan. “I appreciate that it is outlined, transparent.”
He also said there are too many variables to determine which teacher should get a $10,000 raise, if it is based on performance.
“The issue with that is every teacher does not get the same child,” he said.
Additionally, Governor Sanders has announced she will repeal the Fair Dismissal Act.
“The major concern I have is getting rid of fair teacher dismissal,” McAdoo said. “There may be some good things in the bill, there may be some great things in the bill, however, if you’re getting rid of Fair Teacher Dismissal, it won’t matter how good those things are because you probably won’t be there.”
Governor Sanders also announced her educational freedom approach, which is a voucher system that would use public school funds for students to transfer to another school – including private or charter. The plan would start with students in greatest need and would eventually be available to all students in Arkansas by 2025-2026.
As a public-school teacher, McAdoo said this takes money away from schools like his that need it, and fuels it into other schools to pocket it.
McAdoo added that he fears decisions are already being made without people in the room who spend time in Arkansas schools.
Secretary of Education Jacob Oliva promised on his first day of meeting with educators in January to do this before making decisions.
Oliva said, as a former educator himself, he knows the power of seeing things firsthand to understand the school’s needs.
“You 1000% have my commitment,” he told the Senate Education Committee that day.
McAdoo added that teachers should be considered first, before making decisions for the well-being of the school or its students.
“As they say when you’re on a plane, ‘Put your mask on first,’” McAdoo said. “Teachers have to put their mask on first before they can help anybody else. If teachers are not taken care of- being the first employee of education- then children will not be educated.”