School & District Management

Huckabee Wants to Link Ark. Teacher Pay, Achievement

By John Gehring — January 23, 2002 3 min read

Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas has proposed a broad education reform plan for a state that has struggled to improve student achievement in recent years, and that faces a court order to overhaul how it pays for schools.

Gov. Mike Huckabee

His vision, outlined in a speech to a Little Rock civic group earlier this month, calls for raising academic standards by requiring more rigorous course requirements for graduation, linking teacher pay raises to student performance, and restructuring the state’s accountability system to include annual spring testing.

Titled “The Next Step: A Blueprint for Continued Education Reform in Arkansas,” the plan does not provide details for the proposals or say how the changes would be financed, however.

The plan is intended, the Republican governor wrote in a letter to Arkansas residents, to offer a “visionary proposal to not only advance our existing reforms but also make additional changes. These reforms are designed to produce concrete results.”

In addition, Mr. Huckabee wants to offer stipends or additional pay to certified teachers in such hard-to-fill subjects as mathematics, special education, and foreign languages. And high school could be made tougher, he suggests, by requiring students to have four units of mathematics.

Finally, colleges and high schools could form better relationships with each other by expanding opportunities for high school students to earn college credits, with the goal of having them earn an associate’s degree by 12th grade, the governor says.

The plan comes eight months after a state chancery judge declared Arkansas’ school funding formula unconstitutional because it does not provide adequate funding for needier school districts.

The Buzz

While Gov. Huckabee has appealed that decision, and did not mention it in his blueprint, the case looms large over any plan to improve education statewide. The 2001 ruling marked the third time in 20 years that the funding formula had been declared unconstitutional. (“Arkansas School Finance System Overturned,” June 6, 2001.)

For now, anyway, it’s the governor’s reform package that is causing the buzz in education circles. “There is some good stuff and quite a bit of fluff in there,” said Sen. John A. Riggs, a Democrat. He was disappointed that the governor didn’t talk more specifically about teacher salaries.

“It’s a good start, but it doesn’t go far enough,” Mr. Riggs said of the governor’s teacher- pay proposal. “Teachers in Arkansas basically get minimum wage.”

“We have built a system where there is local control,” Mr. Riggs added, “which is absolutely in juxtaposition to what the state constitution says we should be doing. We have to look at our complete tax structure.”

But Raymond Simon, the director of the state department of education, views the proposals as a way to continue reform efforts already under way in the state.

Mr. Simon said Mr. Huckabee’s plan would help build on the state’s “Smart Start” initiative, which began in 1998 with the goal of having all students meet or exceed grade-level requirements in reading and math by 4th grade, and on “Smart Step,” which focuses on improving performance in those same subjects for students in grades 5-8.

Arkansas has raised resources for poor schools in the state’s Mississippi Delta region by appropriating $8.5 million over the past two years to raise achievement in poor districts.

"[Mr. Huckabee’s plan] is a very logical extension to Smart Start and Smart Step, and it’s compatible with federal legislation,” Mr. Simon said.

But Sid Johnson, the president of the Arkansas Education Association, an 18,000-member affiliate of the National Education Association, was more critical. “You can’t talk about reform without talking about money,” he said.

And while Mr. Huckabee’s blueprint would link continued salary increases to student progress and accountability measures, Mr. Johnson said it’s already hard to attract and keep teachers in the state because of low pay.

The AEA lobbied last year for an $8,500 increase in the average teacher salary. Arkansas teachers’ pay falls about $3,000 below the Southern regional average and $8,000 beneath the national average, according to the union.

Gov. Huckabee signed into law last year a measure that raised teachers’ salaries by $3,000 over two years. But Mr. Johnson said a clause allowed districts facing deficits not to phase in the raises—and many districts are falling back on that provision in the face of budgetary woes.

“We want to work with the governor,” Mr. Johnson said. “But the devil is in the details.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the January 23, 2002 edition of Education Week as Huckabee Wants to Link Ark. Teacher Pay, Achievement

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

7796 - Director of EAL (K-12) - August '21
Dubai, UAE
GEMS Education
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion A Road Map for Education Research in a Crisis
Here are five basic principles for a responsible and timely research agenda during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Robin J. Lake
4 min read
Two opposing sides reaching out to work together
J.R. Bee for Education Week
School & District Management 1,000 Students, No Social Distancing, and a Fight to Keep the Virus Out
A principal describes the "nightmare" job of keeping more than 1,000 people safe in the fast-moving pandemic.
4 min read
Dixie Rae Garrison, principal of West Jordan Middle School, in West Jordan, Utah.
Dixie Rae Garrison, principal of West Jordan Middle School in West Jordan, Utah, would have preferred a hybrid schedule and other social distancing measures.
Courtesy of Dixie Rae Garrison
School & District Management A School Leader Who Calls Her Own Shots on Battling the Coronavirus
A charter school founder uses her autonomy to move swiftly on everything from classroom shutdowns to remote schooling.
3 min read
Nigena Livingston, founder and head of School at the URBAN ACT Academy in Indianapolis, Ind.
Nigena Livingston, founder and head of school at the URBAN ACT Academy in Indianapolis, makes swift decisions in responding to the threat of COVID-19 in her school community.
Courtesy of Nigena Livingston
School & District Management A COVID-19 Lull Gives Way to ‘Borderline Insanity’
When the number of cases started to rise steeply, a school community hammered out a routine. Then a basketball player tested positive.
3 min read
Andy McGill, K-12 assistant principal at West Liberty-Salem Local School District in West Liberty, Ohio.
Andy McGill, K-12 assistant principal at West Liberty-Salem Local School District in Ohio, includes coronavirus response among his administrative duties.
Courtesy of Andy McGill