LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Arkansas teacher pay raise debate continues.

Arkansas House and Senate Democrats announced a plan July 28 to address teacher pay in the state. Called the “Raising Arkansas’s Investment in Schools and Educators” (RAISE) Act, the proposal would use $600 million from the estimated $1.6 billion state surplus for a fund.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has called for a special legislative session the week of Aug. 8 to address the state budget surplus. In announcing the session Hutchinson stated it was to reduce the tax collection rate in Arkansas. Educators have called for teacher pay raises to be considered during the session, citing comparatively lower pay in the region for Arkansas teachers.

Hutchinson has thus far resisted calls to place teacher pay on the special session agenda. The RAISE Act is an effort to overcome this resistance.

“We all want a more skilled workforce, a growing economy, and stronger communities. All this starts with great teachers, which is why we’ve got to offer salaries that match our expectations, their qualifications, and the demands of the regional market. We don’t have to lag behind our neighboring states,” Rep. Andrew Collins (D-Little Rock) said.

If placed into law, the RAISE Act would create a sustainability fund using $600 million of the surplus. The fund would be used to support a $42,000 minimum teacher pay, currently at $36,000. The same type of fund was used to create a teacher pay increase in 2019.