Arkansas’ education system, along with our nation’s, is in need of reform and attention. Teachers feel undervalued, parents are exhausted, and many students fall behind in reading, writing, math, and communication skills.
Governor Sanders came into office promising to be a voice for those who think our education system needs a better way forward. With her new Arkansas Learn plan, she is keeping this promise with the most effective education reform in the nation.
I am a school board member, parent and graduate of Cabot High School. This issue is personal to me and my family, so I’ve taken the time to learn Arkansas from top to bottom. Governor Sanders’ plan is exactly what schools need to improve curriculum, focus on workforce development, and create positive change in Arkansas’ economy.
For years, our region has struggled to recruit and retain talented teachers. Pay is always a big part of this issue; That we cannot expect to attract the best teachers without offering the best salaries. Arkansas learns the problem by dramatically increasing teacher salaries from $36,000 to $50,000 and giving every teacher a raise. That puts Arkansas in the top five for teacher pay, 48th in the nation.
As a business owner who has struggled with Arkansas’ ongoing labor shortage, I’m probably most excited about the new career readiness diploma available in Arkansas. That initiative will start a dual diploma program at every Arkansas high school. This curricular enhancement provides opportunities and connects local employers with students to help train the next generation of talent. Students will have a path to a high-paying job, right after graduation, right in their community.
Parents looking for more choices can now find them here in Arkansas. Students are not caught if they fall within school districts only where they live. Governor Sanders’ plan establishes a new educational freedom label to allow families to enroll their children in any school that is most appropriate, whether public, private, parochial or home school.
While parents have the choice to customize their child’s education, traditional public schools compete to better themselves by meeting the challenge. As with any business, this competitive nature drives success through these constant improvements.
When I ran for school board, I promised to make school safety a top priority. Learn Arkansas takes best practices from across the state, including recommendations made by experts from the Arkansas School Safety Commission, to put student safety above partisan politics. That includes putting law enforcement officers in every school in Arkansas, keeping students safe (regardless of what “policing the public” means).
Those are just a few of the highlights of learning Arkansas. I encourage every parent, teacher and voter to take a closer look and read about the ways Governor Sanders plans to help schools across our state. As someone who works every day to improve our public education system, I can tell you that Learn Arkansas is exactly what our state needs to improve our education system. I am proud to support it and excited to see it passed into law.
Editor’s Note: Kevin Tipton is secretary of the Cabot School Board. The opinions expressed are those of the author.