The Arkansas Education Association, a statewide union for educators, on Thursday threw its support behind John Burkhalter, the Democratic nominee for the lieutenant governor’s office. The front runner in the race, Republican Tim Griffin, suggests it's an endorsement he wouldn't have wanted.
Burkhalter, formerly the state Highway Commissioner, said expanding pre-K and vocational and technical education is what he will advocate for if elected.
“I think we need more funding for our…I grew up calling it vo-tech. Northwest Arkansas Community College, Pulaski Tech, they both need more funding. We need to realize that we’re all made a little bit different and that we all have a different career path,” said Burkhalter.
Burkhalter also said fixing the troubled health insurance plan for public school employees requires more state funding.
“We’re going to have to reallocate more resources from the state of Arkansas to help teachers with those insurance needs,” said Burkhalter.
The legislature has met twice in special sessions to make changes to the health program for public school workers, in what have been widely called band-aid solutions by legislators. Another reform in the 2015 General Assembly is expected. Insurance officials say the program would be on solid footing if the state dedicates $60-90 million annually to the public school employees health insurance program.
The AEA previously endorsed the Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Mike Ross. Burkhalter faces Republican Congressman Tim Griffin and Libertarian Christopher Olson.
In a statement Griffin derided the organization for teachers.
"The government employee union that endorsed my Democrat opponent is the same union that endorsed Barack Obama nationally and supports his policies so it’s no surprise those union lobbyists support the Obama candidate in the race for Lieutenant Governor."