Magic Springs Partnership

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AEA is excited to announce a new opportunity for members to save through a partnership with Magic Springs! AEA Members can now receive 50% off the daily admission rate to the Hot Springs water park, as well as discounted season passes.

You can check out the park at this website, but be sure to buy your tickets at this link to access the discounted rates.

AEA Online Flyer

Magic Springs Calendar Dates

Upcoming Events at Magic Springs


Voter Information

Posted by & filed under Latest News, Other.

Educators are no stranger to paperwork, but this may be the most important form you fill out this year.
Make sure you’re registered to vote!

Elections are how we hold our elected officials accountable. For this reason, educators must be involved. The 2018 election season is in full swing, and many of the state legislative races will be decided in the primary election on May 22.

The deadline to register to vote in the May 22 primary elections is April 23. Early voting begins May 7. Check your registration here.

Open Primaries:

In a primary election, registered voters select a candidate that they believe should be a political party’s nominee for elected office to run in the general election.

Arkansas has open primaries which allow a voter to vote on a ballot of their choosing even if they are not a member of the party. Voters will be asked to select a Republican, Democratic, or nonpartisan ballot when they arrive at the polling place. Judicial races will also appear on the May 22nd ballot, along with some school board races.

Election Day:

You can vote at your poll on Election Day, May 22 from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Find your polling place at Arkansas Voter View.

Bring your ID:

In March 2017, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law a bill requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls. Under this law, a voter who does not possess the required form of identification may cast a provisional ballot after signing a sworn statement attesting to his or her identity.

Vote Early:

During the preferential primary early voting is available May 7, through the 21st. Voting locations are open between the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Early voting ends at 5 p.m. on the Monday before the election. Off-site early voting hours may vary by county; watch your local newspaper or contact your county clerk for information.

You can find more information about elections in Arkansas at the Secretary of State’s website.

2108 Legislative Wrap Up

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On Monday (3/12/18), lawmakers officially wrapped up the 2018 Fiscal Legislative Session, returning to Little Rock to adjourn sine die. This session saw far more education-related proposals than any previous fiscal session. As always, AEA was at the Capitol representing our members and public education every day.

What education proposals were considered?

Voucher Expansion through 529 Plans 

The biggest education fight this session centered around HB1122. This bill is the appropriation bill for the State Treasurer’s Office. Late in the session, lawmakers added language to the bill that effectively creates a new voucher program via the Arkansas tax code.

Lawmakers added the program through a little-known process called “special language.” The Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) estimated that this new voucher program, which would expand the use of 529 savings plans to help fund private school tuition, would mean a $5.2 million loss to our state budget.

Supporters of this proposal needed 75 votes to pass the measure. On the first attempt, the bill only received 56 votes. On a second attempt the proposal received 74 votes. The measure lost more support leading up to the third (and final) vote in the last few days of the legislative session. Legislators were at an impasse.  The controversial language that had been added to create the voucher program was stripped from the bill. AEA strongly opposed this proposal and was the only organization to testify in opposition.  AEA members played a critical role in the defeat of this bill by reaching out to key lawmakers across Arkansas.

ALERT: A similar proposal will now be considered during a special session beginning Tuesday morning (3/13). During this session, such a proposal will only require a simple majority in the House and Senate, rather than the required three-fourths supporters failed to muster during the fiscal session.

Governor’s Letters:

1) Voucher Funding Increase

Governor Hutchinson, via a mechanism called a “Governor’s Letter,” successfully gained legislative approval to add public dollars to two education funding bills.

The first Governor’s Letter seeks legislative approval to add nearly a quarter of a million dollars to the deceptively named “Succeed Scholarship” voucher program. This program sends public funds to unaccountable private schools.

Even worse, the program primarily targets students on an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and requires parents or guardians to waive the child’s federal civil rights protections to participate. This proposal was added to SB37.

2) Charter Facility Funding Increase 

The second Governor’s letter would increase charter school facilities funding by $1.5 million dollars. The Governor’s support of these programs adds pressure to an already strained state budget by creating additional lanes of state expenditures. This additional spending was added to SB33.

These proposals erode the state’s ability to adequately resource our public schools as required by the Arkansas State Constitution.

Catastrophic Funding for Students with Special Needs

The Joint Budget Committee also defeated an attempt to increase funding for students with special needs. Three times, lawmakers voted down an amendment to SB33 by Rep. Michael John Gray that would begin to address the demonstrated need in the state’s catastrophic special education fund. This severely underfunded part of the budget helps school districts around Arkansas meet the needs of the most vulnerable students in our public schools. AEA supported this amendment. Voting against funding for this special education proposal was:

Sen. Scott Flippo, R, Bull Shoals
Sen. John Cooper, R, Jonesboro
Sen. Missy Irvin, R, Mountain View
Sen. Jane English, R, North LR
Sen. Lance Eads, R, Springdale
Sen. Jim Hendren, R, Gravette
Sen. Bart Hester, R, Cave Springs
Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R, Texarkana

Arkansas Works

In addition to these education-related proposals, funding for Arkansas’s Medicaid Expansion Program – also known as Arkansas Works – which has a significant impact on the state budget as a whole was approved after Trump Administration officials agreed to require program participants to work.

What’s Next?

The Governor has called a Special Legislative session to begin on Tuesday (3/13). Lawmakers will again take up the voucher proposal to expand utilization of 529 plans to incentivize spending on private schools. During this session, such a proposal would only require 51 of 100 votes to pass in the House and 18 out of 35 in the Senate.

New Legislative Leadership

The Senate has elected Sen. Jim Hendren, R of Gravette to be President Pro Tempore of the Senate replacing Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R, of Beebe.

The House has elected Rep. Matthew Shepard of El Dorado as the Speaker of the House replacing Rep. Jeremy Gillam, R, of Judsonia.

The House has elected Rep. Matthew Shepard, R, of El Dorado as the Speaker of the House replacing Rep. Jeremy Gillam, R, of Judsonia.



The Senate has elected Sen. Jim Hendren, R. of Gravette to be President Pro Tempore of the Senate replacing Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R, of Beebe.

ELECTIONS: Mark Your Calendars

March 1st was the last day for candidates to file to run for office in Arkansas (see the full list HERE). This means election season is in full swing.Many of the state legislative races will be decided in the primary election. This year, it will be on May 22nd. Judicial races will also appear on the May 22nd ballot along with some school board races, provided that the local school board elected to hold the election on this date instead of during the November 6 General Election.Monday, April 22nd is the deadline to register to vote and participate in this election.


Voters will be asked to select a Republican, Democratic, or nonpartisan ballot when they arrive at the polling place. Arkansas has open primaries which allow a voter to vote on a ballot of their choosing.

Voters must be registered to vote by April 23 to be eligible to vote in the May 22nd election.

New Tax Deduction for Arkansas Educators

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pencil-432613Q: I am about to file my taxes, isn’t there a new state law to help educators? 

A: Yes! As of July 1, 2017 most public school educators in Arkansas are now eligible for a new state income tax deduction called the Teacher’s Classroom Investment Deduction.
An educator is eligible for a deduction of up to $250 or $500 for two educators filing jointly. Note that this is in addition to the existing federal tax deduction.

Q: What can I count toward this deduction?

A: Qualified classroom investment expenses – This means materials used in the classroom, including books, school supplies, computer equipment and software, athletic equipment, food for the teacher’s students and clothing for the teacher’s students.

Q: Who is eligible for this tax deduction?

A: In the new law “Teacher” means a teacher, instructor, counselor, principal, or aide for students in any grade from prekindergarten through grade 12 who is employed for at least 900 hours in a tax year at a school certified by the state to provide public preschool, elementary, or secondary education.

Awards Deadline to Apply is March 1

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The AEA is now accepting award nominations concerning public education in Arkansas.

The Arkansas Education Association is accepting applications for the following scholarships and an in-service grant. These awards acknowledge those with an impact on public education. Please check the links below for more information on each award, and send completed applications to Angela Williams at by March 1st.

Emma Scott – Scholarship for Future Teachers

The Emma Scott Memorial Scholarships were established in 1961 by the Arkansas Education Association to honor Emma Scott. Miss Scott was a former English teacher in Little Rock and AEA staff member who is credited with establishing Future Teachers of America programs in Arkansas.

TE Patterson – Memorial Undergraduate Scholarship 

This $500 scholarship is awarded yearly to five African-American college students in Arkansas. Each year this scholarship also honors the memory of a distinguished African-American educator. The deadline for scholarship applications is March 1st. All applications must be completed with documents by the deadline. Otherwise the committee will not consider it.

TW Coggs – In-service Grant 

A grant of $500 is awarded annually for the purpose of enabling a member of the Association to carry on a project, study, or research which would benefit education in some specific area. The deadline for scholarship applications is March 1.

Arkansas Times Big Ideas Features AEA President Koehler

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big ideaCathy













As baby-boomers begin to retire and more students enter our schools, Arkansas faces a serious dilemma: a shortage of teachers.

Unfortunately, we also face an effort to deprofessionalize education by privateers hoping to cash in on the public dollars currently going to our students.

Long-term solutions are needed to keep educators in the profession by improving working conditions, increasing preparation and mentoring, reducing over-burdensome paperwork, and providing adequate resources that will enable them to do their jobs.

Summed up in a word: respect.

We know having qualified educators in the classroom is the biggest factor in student achievement. We also know teachers become more effective as they spend more time in the classroom.

Unfortunately, across the state and nation we are seeing declining numbers of new people pursuing teaching degrees, as well as epidemic levels of teacher attrition.

Teacher turnover has serious implications on the quality and stability of the education profession and student success. When early career educators leave the profession, districts encounter tremendous economic turnover costs, and often resort to back-filling vacancies with out-of-field teachers or substitute teachers, canceling program offerings, or creating larger classes.

The state Bureau of Legislative Research found that the five-year teacher attrition rate was over 36 percent. That’s more than one-third of new Arkansas teachers leaving the profession before they make it to the most effective years of their career.

As the teacher pipeline dries up, it is becoming harder and harder for schools to attract and retain qualified educators, especially in lower income areas.

The attrition rate is even higher in rural areas where districts can’t afford to keep up buildings, let alone pay teachers the same salary as more populated areas with higher property tax collection.

In addition, teachers in these schools often face greater challenges associated with students living in poverty.

Arkansas is working to incentivize teaching in rural and high-poverty schools, but the current bonuses don’t make up for the incredible difference in salaries you find in school districts across the state.

The people most likely to commit for the long term to these communities are those who grew up there and already know it as home.

Arkansas needs to develop a more comprehensive support network for new teachers, and we need to do a better job of encouraging students from underserved communities to become the next generation of teachers in their hometown.

This “grow your own” strategy should include increased scholarships or student loan forgiveness so there is no income barrier keeping these students from pursuing an education career. We also have an opportunity to ramp up the Arkansas Department of Education’s Teacher Cadet program, created to recruit homegrown educators. This program is already working in dozens of schools across the state to attract our best and brightest high school students to the teaching profession.

We must bolster this increased access with better help for new hires. Arkansas should ask its longtime educators to coach their new colleagues. Engaging and supporting educators as early as possible will stem the tide of departures and create a strong and sustainable teaching force. This will give experienced educators the opportunity to share their incredible knowledge, while training the next generation of teacher leaders.

Finally, we need to understand this issue is bigger than school districts or even the state Department of Education. If we want more people to become educators, we need to make teaching an attractive and respected career again.

Everyone in the community, from local chambers to legislators, parents and other city leaders must come together to acknowledge these problems and work together to support their schools and the educators who fill them.

How much voice, how much say, do teachers have collectively in the schoolwide decisions that affect their jobs? Are teachers treated as professionals? Are we providing safe and comfortable working (and learning) environments for educators and their students?

Achieving affirmative answers to these questions depends on having strong educator leaders who will advocate for their profession and their students. It also depends on the rest of us to support their efforts and treat the teaching profession with the respect it deserves.

Cathy Koehler is president of the Arkansas Education Association.

Read more Big Ideas HERE.

Board Approves Changes to Arkansas Teacher Retirement System

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On Monday, the Board of the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System voted to adopt various measures to ensure the long-term health of your retirement system. As you know, the Board members are all educators and members of the retirement system elected by other members.

The Board acted in three key ways this week. First, the Board changed the way it calculates risk and costs based on mortality rates. This is important because people are living longer and the system must be prepared to meet its financial obligations. Second, the Board reduced the assumed rate of return on the fund to 7.5% per year from 8%. This is important because it influences how the board acts in the future to guarantee the long-term health of the system. Third, the Board adopted a series of changes, which will be implemented in 2020, to protect the future health of your retirement system. These changes will impact contributions and benefits for all ATRS participants, retirees and active members alike. In 2020, the amount each member pays into the system will increase from 6 percent of the member’s salary over 4 years to 7 percent in fiscal 2023. All ATRS participants will share the load equally without any one group disproportionately responsible.

It is important that you look at the Executive Director Update here.  You can also take a deep dive into all the measures taken by your ATRS board here.

Finally, ATRS is proposing to hold “school hall meetings” around the state to discuss any questions or concerns by any educator. If you would like to host one of these meetings, please contact us so we can help make it happen.

The President’s Post It's American Education Week!

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AEW 2017_851x315_Final


Today is the first day of American Education Week, a time to celebrate public schools across our state and nation for providing all students with the support, tools, and time to learn.

Across our nation, public schools are where children from all backgrounds and circumstances come together to learn and be inspired by professionals who believe in and are devoted to students. Nine out of 10 students in the United States attend public schools. We are making a difference in their lives each day.

We would love for you to celebrate this week with us by taking pictures that represent your pride in public schools and posting them using #PublicSchoolsForAll.

I had the pleasure of introducing a resolution last week at the State Board of Education meeting recognizing the observance of Public Education week. It was wonderful to hear the words copied below stated for the public record, and for our State Board Members to be reminded that quality public schools are the cornerstone of our communities, where we provide the tools, resources and opportunity every student deserves every day.

In solidarity,

Cathy Signature




DSC_0837WHEREAS, The National Education Association designated November 13-17, 2017, as American Education Week in an effort to celebrate public education and honor individuals who are making a difference to ensure that every child receives a quality education;

and WHEREAS, Education is a pillar of democracy and a cornerstone of American opportunity that gives our children the foundation they need to understand and appreciate our nation’s values of freedom, civility and equality;


and WHEREAS, Arkansas public schools provide outstanding opportunities in academics, fine arts, athletics, extracurricular activities, and vocational training to equip students with the skills and knowledge needed to grow, thrive and succeed in our global society;

and WHEREAS, Arkansas public schools bring together adults and children, teachers, education support professionals, volunteers, business and civic leaders, and elected officials who play an important role in inspiring children to learn;

and WHEREAS, All Arkansas education employees including teachers, education support professionals, principals and administrators deserve our gratitude, respect and support for their utmost professionalism and commitment to our schools;

and WHEREAS, Arkansas parents are an integral part of the educational process, providing a nurturing home learning environment, and serving as their child’s first teachers and advocates, and are important partners with the school system;

and WHEREAS, Community involvement in schools provides vital support and opportunities for students to participate in community learning and outreach activities;

and NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT We, the members of the Arkansas State Board of Education, recognize the observance of November 13-17, 2017, as American Education Week.