AXIOS - At a news conference late last week, Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke about making Arkansas' school safety an agenda item in a special legislative session that may be called late this summer.
- Teacher salaries could also be part of the agenda, he said.
Driving the news: "The Governor supports the proposal to raise teacher salaries to a minimum of $46,000 and implementing at least a $4,000 salary increase," Hutchinson's spokesperson said in an email to Axios.
Why it matters: The minimum starting salary for a teacher in the 2022-2023 school year is set at $36,000, up from $34,900 last school year. Arkansas' teacher salaries are among the lowest in the U.S., which impacts the state's ability to recruit and retain educators.
- The money to increase school safety and pay teachers would likely come from the state's projected $1.47 billion surplus for fiscal 2022, which ends June 30.
The intrigue: The Democrat-Gazette reported that in an email, state Sen. Jimmy Hickey Jr. (R-Texarkana) estimated the $4,000 raise and increase to the minimum salary would cost the state about $333 million.
- That's "way in excess of what the Legislature would look at," the paper reported, citing Hickey's email.
By the numbers: The national map above shows the average pay of secondary school teachers and doesn't take each state's cost of living into account. It's based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data from May 2021, which doesn't include recent raises by states.
What they're saying: "To stay competitive and to combat a teacher shortage, it is important that we evaluate what level of increase the state can afford," Hutchinson said in a statement sent to Axios.
- "The teacher pay proposal is still being considered as a special session item up for discussion. Ultimately, this is a legislative decision, but I have laid out alternatives to be considered."
What to watch: Hutchinson said a special legislative session could be called in July or August.