The following is a transcript of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's radio column for the weekend of Jan. 29, 2016:
Being from a small town, I understand the need and the challenge of recruiting top quality teachers to rural parts of the state. There is a real need for talented teachers in every part of Arkansas, especially in our low-income communities.
That’s why I was delighted to announce a partnership with Teach For America this week. The state is investing $3 million to bring 150 teachers to rural school districts in Arkansas over the next three years. These teachers will reach over 9,000 students in eastern and southern Arkansas.
But there’s more. Business community leaders in Little Rock have matched our investment, bringing the total for this project to $6 million. That means Teach For America will send 65 new teachers to the Little Rock district for the first time, and will target the district’s highest-need schools over the course of three years. Not only will students in south and east Arkansas benefit from Teach For America educators, but so will more than 4,000 students in the Little Rock School District.
This initiative is two-fold; it’s an opportunity to utilize the talents of incredible teachers and a chance to inspire our young people. These teachers come to the Natural State to fulfill a two-year teaching commitment. But for many, they stay long after that initial commitment. In fact, to date, more than 185 Teach For America educators have continued teaching long after their original commitment ended.
What’s so unique about Teach For America is that these teachers want to be challenged. They want to invest in the lives and education of underserved students. But above all else, they want to make a difference. And they do. Already, Teach For America has sent educators to teach students in Lee, Phillips, Chicot, Jefferson and Union counties.
I see potential for these teachers to help rejuvenate our schools and help our students thrive—especially within rural districts facing extra challenges in recruiting and retaining top quality teachers.
It is up to us to help provide every child in Arkansas with an opportunity to succeed. That starts with having access to a good education. I’ve certainly had my fair share of excellent educators and mentors who shaped the way I see the world, and even the way I see myself.
Arkansas is already blessed with incredibly talented and hardworking teachers throughout the state. And now, with the addition of Teach For America educators, I have no doubt that together we can inspire the next generation of Arkansas students.