A Better Education
For too long, the people of Eastern Arkansas have been ignored by politicians in Washington from both parties. While cabinet secretaries take private planes across the country and lobbyists donate millions to politicians to maintain business as usual, our students and schools suffer. From soaring class sizes to teacher shortages and budget cuts for our kids, change cannot come soon enough to our education system.
With Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, our country’s largest education agency is led by an unqualified and out of touch billionaire who does not understand the unique needs of our students and families. Through consolidation and under-funding, schools in Arkansas and across the country have been stripped of resources and are unable to prepare students for the jobs of the 21st century. Teacher salaries have fallen nearly $5,000 in Arkansas between 2010 and 2016 when adjusting for cost of living. Schools in the Arkansas Delta face some of the most severe teacher shortages in the nation.
With a representative who is a career educator and who is deeply connected to the needs of students, the kids who attend class in crumbling classrooms will no longer be ignored. The teachers who work a second or third job just to pay the bills after grading a stack of papers will no longer be ignored. The families who have big dreams for their sons and daughters who are left without educational options or opportunities will no longer be ignored.
As a teacher and education leader in Arkansas, Chintan has seen firsthand that our students have unlimited amounts of untapped potential. We must:
Provide hands on opportunities for students to prepare for success on college, careers, and national service
We will advocate in Congress to expand federal funding for under-served communities to provide apprenticeships during school for students in trades and technical fields. We will support a national program to partner with schools and non-profit groups to help rural students get to and through college. We will fight for additional opportunities for students after graduating high school including expanded opportunities to join national service programs such as AmeriCorps where young people gain skills and training to bring back to their communities.
Train, support, and pay teachers like professionals
Arkansas schools should have the best trained and supported educators to serve our students. Yet average teacher pay in Arkansas is about $9,000 less than the national average, coming in at 39th in the country over all. It is difficult to recruit talented teachers in Arkansas when a teacher's salary is not enough to support a family. We must pay our teachers more. We will advocate in Congress for Title I funds to be used to establish a pilot program in under-served schools where teachers begin their career with an annual base salary of at least $50,000 as an apprentice teacher. After gaining experience and expertise with a mentor teacher, educators should have the opportunity to earn at least $100,000 annually.
Create a healthy and safe environment in every school
We will support funding for dedicated mental health counselors in every school to give students the support they need to succeed. Studies have shown that despite a clear link between mental health and academic achievement, less than 20 percent of students receive quality mental health services at school.
Offer free breakfast and lunch for all students regardless of income
More than 146,000 Arkansans in the First District are classified as food insecure. 1 in 5 residents of the district lack access to adequate nutrition, making it the most food insecure region in Arkansas. Children and families already working hard to overcome barriers to get a great education should not have to overcome hunger as well. Breakfast and lunch should be available to all students regardless of income.
Increase federal funding for early childhood education for low income and under-served communities
Study after study has shown that a high quality early childhood education is proven to yield substantial long-term benefits. Yet, the average annual cost at a child care center in Arkansas is over $11,000 for an infant and a 4-year-old. This amounts to one fifth of the median income for families with children and one half of the income for low-income families and people of color. Making child care more affordable would ensure that children are not at risk of developmental delay and would increase mothers' and caretakers' workforce participation. We must secure more federal funds to make voluntary universal preschool a reality.