The #payARteachers movement has some Arkansas republican scrambling, but the bonuses are bogus. We’ll tell you why.

What happens when you catch some #arleg majority members off balance? Panic and bad ideas.

That’s what happened last week at the Arkansas Legislative Council, the committee that handles legislative oversight and supervises the Bureau of Legislative Research. After some republicans received backlash for being against teacher raises for the upcoming special session, members needed a plan to save face. When ALC gaveled in last week, the GOP had their political stunt ready: dodge responsibility for not supporting teacher raises by blaming school districts. 

Specifically, ALC members rescinded approval for federal Covid-19 relief funds earmarked for pandemic-related district needs. These funds had already been approved for things like learning loss due to Covid or needed facility improvements, like air purification systems. Some funds were also used for bonuses to retain teachers during the height of the pandemic. But at ALC, members decided to change their minds; instead of Covid-19-related spending, districts should use the money to pay teacher bonuses, they said. Members then voted to change the funding requirements with minimal discussion, no public input, and no input from the department of education. They ramrodded through their shoddy plan because it was the only thing they could think of.

Unfortunately, these republicans weren’t using their prefrontal cortices when they came up with this plan. If they had, they would have considered 1) that some districts have already used the money for bonuses; 2) that many districts have already spent their Covid funds and do not have money left for bonuses; 3) the move to reappropriate these funds unfairly blames districts for the legislature’s failure to pay teachers; 4) a bonus isn’t the same as a raise (an elementary school student can tell you that $5,000 times one is less than $5,000 times ten or fifteen).

So let’s recap. The amygdala-driven republican response to raising teachers’ salaries is to: 

  • Abuse Power
  • Usurp local control
  • Pit teachers against administrators 
  • Not do their homework 

Color us unsurprised. But here’s the thing—teachers are not easily duped, and they won’t stop until the legislature gives them their hard-earned raises. Educators need solutions, not political stunts.