LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Two bills filed Thursday by Democrat legislators calls for immediate raises for Arkansas school teachers and staff.

House Bill 1268 calls for a $50,000 per year minimum starting salary and an immediate $10,000 raise for full-time Arkansas teachers.

Sponsored by House Minority Leader Rep. Tippi McCullough (D- Little Rock) and co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Sen. Greg Leding (D- Fayetteville), the proposed legislation would be the highest rate of pay for teachers in the south.

The bill is named the Raising Arkansas’s Investment in Schools and Educators Act of 2023 or the RAISE Act. The bill calls for the state treasurer to transfer $30 million with its passage to support the pay raises.

A Democrat Party news release called the current $36,000 starting pay for Arkansas teachers “worst-in-south.” It used figures from the National Education Association showing higher starting pay rates in neighboring states.

A second bill, Senate Bill 149, brings public school staff such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers to a $15 per hour minimum, up from the current $11 pay rate.

The legislation filed by Leding and co-sponsored by McCullough would also raise the per-student rate to $8,195 from its current $7,182 for the 2023-2024 school year. The per-student rate is the amount a school district receives for each student from the state based on the average student membership for the previous school year. SB149 would also raise the 2025-2026 per-student rate to $8,370 from its currently legislated $7,413.

Each bill has 22 cosponsors, all Democrat legislators.

Democrats cited Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ inaugural speech to the legislature calling for teacher pay raises.

“Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders requested a teacher pay raise bill in her inaugural address to a joint session of the 94th General Assembly saying, ‘If you send me a bill that rewards our teachers with higher pay, I will sign it,’” the release said.

McCullough challenged the legislature to support the RAISE Act.

“The RAISE Act and our bill to raise staff pay are investments in our children and Arkansas’s future. They are not only investments Arkansas can afford to make, but ones that we must make in order to stay competitive for the best educators for our children, McCullough said. “The Governor said she wanted a teacher pay raise bill, because she knows the dire need of our public schools. Well, here are the two bills that will take Arkansas from the worst-in-the-South to the very best. Let’s get this done for our children and families.”

The bills will likely meet a slow process through the Republican-supermajority legislature as plans for an expected Republican-sponsored omnibus education bill.

Sanders had called for an education bill to include not just pay raises but school-choice legislation, beginning with her inauguration speech through her speaking at a school-choice rally at the capitol on Monday.

Sanders has said she intended to be known as the “education governor,” citing her gubernatorial campaign LEARNS plan that emphasizes literacy rates for Arkansas students and school choice.

SB149 has been forwarded to the Senate Education Committee. HB1268 had yet to be acted upon as of Thursday afternoon.