LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas House and Senate Democrats continue to outline distinctions in party policy in the state.

In a press conference at the Arkansas Capitol Wednesday, Aug. 10, Democrat state lawmakers continued to promote the RAISE Act first proposed by the group July 28. The act proposed using a portion of the $1.6 billion state surplus for $600 million in teacher raises.

Considering the surplus, Gov. Asa Hutchinson had called for a special session of the legislature to center on tax cuts. Hutchinson had said earlier teacher pay raises did not have legislative support and would not be part of the special session.

“We have the money. We have the plan. We definitely have the need. But we don’t have the votes. It is a huge missed opportunity to refuse to raise teacher and support staff pay in this session with this surplus,” Rep. Reginald Murdock (D-Marianna) said. 

If enacted the RAISE would raise the salary of licensed educators in the state to $4,000 per year, to a $42,000 minimum. A complementary proposal to create the Public School Classified Staff Retention and Recruitment Fund, to provide sustainable pay increases to classified staff, was part of the proposal package. 

Various groups held public protests up to and during the special session promoting teacher pay raises.

On Aug. 8 the Republican-majority legislature met in special session, both passing legislation Aug. 10 to reduce individual and corporate taxes in the state. Teacher pay raises were not discussed.

Additional legislation passed in the Senate special session provided $50 million in school safety grants.