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Local Democrats throw support behind RAISE Act


Bill would increase pay for Arkansas teachers statewide

By Ralph Hardin

On Thursday, the Crittenden County Democratic Party announced its endorsement of the RAISE Act, a bill introduced by House and Senate Democrats in the state legislature that would raise starting teacher pay in Arkansas to $50,000 and give $10,000 raises to all public school teachers.

Democrats also introduced a companion bill to raise classified staff pay to a $15 per hour minimum, with raises for all classified staff included in 2023-2024 funding.

Democratic caucus leaders Senator Greg Leding (DFayetteville) and State Representative Tippi McCullough (D-Little Rock) unveiled the RAISE Act of 2023 and classified staff raise bills in Little Rock last week.

HB1268 was read out twice last week and referred to the Joint Budget Committee for further consideration and possible amendment.

Schools statewide are struggling to keep teachers on staff. Many saw teachers resign or retire at the end of the fall semester, leaving administrations scrambling to find qualified educators to fill those holes. Many are using long-term substitutes to bridge the gap until the end os the school year.

“I hate to say it, but Earle School District]starts their teachers at around $36,000 a year, and they can’t keep them very long because

See RAISE, page A2



From page A1

Marion and West Memphis start at around $44,000,” said Crittenden County Democratic Party chairman Raymond Whitside, who is a school improvement specialist with Marion School district and former teacher in the West Memphis School District. “Now Jonesboro pays more than that.”

Whiteside said educators can no longer afford to teach in low-paying school districts.

“Teachers have families, student loans, car and house payments – they are human and they need money, too,” said Whiteside. “If we could start all of our Arkansas teachers at at least $50,000, we’d have highly qualified educators driving across the bridge into Arkansas instead of the other way around. They’d be coming from Missouri and Mississippi and Oklahoma, too.”

Leding and McCullough are not alone in this proposed legislation. Every Democratic member of the state legislature is a cosponsor of the bills. If passed, the educator raises would be funded from a portion of the state’s general revenue, with the state budget surplus having exceeded $1 billion last year.

“We need more qualified teachers. We have too many teachers on waivers,” Whiteside said.

The Arkansas Department of Education can grant waivers — temporary licensure for uncertified teachers or teachers teaching outisde their area of licensure — to fill holes in a school’s faculty.

“We’ve had several teachers leave education even this year in the middle of the school year,” Whiteside said. “The draw just isn’t there any more. This could really help fix the teacher shortage.”

Questions about the RAISE Act or the Crittenden County Democrats can be directed to Whiteside at or Reed Brewer at the Democratic Party of Arkansas at

Crittenden County Democrats are always on the lookout for new members. Anyone interested in learning more about the Arkansas Democrat agenda is invited to attend a DCC meeting. The next meeting of the Crittenden County Democratic Party is set for Monday, April 10, at 6 p.m. at the West Memphis Public Library.

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