From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
The state is facing a growing teacher shortage, and it is especially severe for school districts in the delta of eastern Arkansas and in southern Arkansas.
In response, the state Education Department and a non-profit organization have launched a new website called TeachArkansas.org.
It presents a variety of ways that high school and college students can get financial aid while earning a teacher license teachers.
It also lists opportunities for current teachers to increase their skills, and therefore earn higher salaries.
The first thing you notice about the website is that it’s user friendly.
The second thing you realize is that it recognizes the importance of financial aid.
The cost of a college education goes up significantly every year. Higher education officials have come to the conclusion that money is one of the most important reasons that students drop out of college.
Often, it is the single most important reason.
That’s why the state is offering so many ways for young people to become teachers without having to take on a mountain of student loans.
Whether you’re in high school or already in college, there are debt-free pathways to becoming a teacher.
If you’re already a teacher, you can improve your skills debt-free.
Another important factor is that many of the courses are now offered online.
Last year an extensive survey was released, and for people who care about education it was an alarming wake up call.
The lack of certified teachers is most severe in schools where the majority of students are African-American.
There are schools in the delta where a third of the teachers are not certified in the subject they teach.
However, it’s encouraging to see that TeachArkansas.org offers solutions on many levels.
In some communities there are simply not enough adults who have completed college. If you’re willing to become a teacher, the state will help you earn a degree.
Another obstacle in many parts of the delta is that going to college is financially out of reach for many people.
TeachArkansas.org outlines numerous ways to get financial aid and avoid taking on debt.
The opportunities are not limited to students, they’re also available for substitutes, classroom aides and para-professionals.
If we’re serious about building a better future, increasing opportunities for aspiring teachers is the best place to start.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.