LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said the state's legislative council does not have a "statutory authority" to rescind $500 million in funding for the Arkansas Department of Education.
This is the latest effort by legislators to address a growing movement in the state that is asking for an increase in pay for teachers.
On Thursday, the Arkansas Legislative Council approved a motion that rescinded the education department's authority to use the funds under the American Rescue Plan's emergency relief fund for schools.
The council recommended using the funds to give $5,000 bonuses to teachers and $2,500 bonuses to staff.
Hutchinson said that while he is "pleased" in the council supporting bonus pay for teachers, "their action to rescind $500 million in spending authority for the Arkansas Department of Education is contrary to the Council’s statutory authority and contrary to the principles of separation of powers underlying the Arkansas Revenue Stabilization Act."
"Just as the General Assembly could not recall a bill from my desk that had already been signed into law," Hutchinson continued, "ALC may not undo the lawful appropriations under Act 199 through a parliamentary maneuver."
Hutchinson said under the appropriation that was passed earlier this year, schools could use that funding for incentives and bonuses. But now schools will have to submit plans "which must go back to the legislature for additional review."
"In other words, the local school district priorities may not be approved. I am concerned that teachers in some districts will get a bonus, but others may not. The creative approach by the committee today while well-intentioned is not the best approach to helping our teachers," he said.
Compared to other states, Arkansas ranks near the bottom for minimum teacher salaries despite raising pay over the last few years.