Arkansas Candidate Comparison

Jared Henderson (D)

Former Executive Director & Senior Vice President of Teach for America, Arkansas

Asa Hutchinson (R)

Current Governor of Arkansas

Education Record/History* Education Record/History
2011-2017: Executive Director of Teach for America in Arkansas 2018: Signed bill allowing 529 tuition savings plans to pay for K-12
  2018: Issued executive order creating the Arkansas School Safety Commission 
  2017: Vetoed appropriated funds for panic buttons in public schools 
  2017: Announced “Arkansas Future Grant,” which provides two years of free tuition and fees at Arkansas community or technical colleges for students who major in high-demand STEM fields   
*This candidate has not previously held public office 2015: Signed bill mandating that all public and charter high schools offer computer coding
Education Platform Education Platform
Teachers: Supports addressing teacher shortages through loan forgiveness, administrative assistance, comprehensive healthcare, more recognition, and increased teacher pay  21st Century Education: Prepare students for technological jobs through computer coding and access to high speed internet in schools
Innovation: Proposes Governor’s Innovation Awards to identify best practices and replicate them at scale  Higher Education: Signed new higher education funding formula based on student performance (rathern than enrollment) into law  to increase post-secondary degree attainment 
School Choice: Opposes the bill allowing 529 savings plan to pay for K-12 education  Pre-K: Recommends increasing funding grants to improve teacher's quality and retention 


Candidate Comparison


A.    Charters, Tax-Credits, and School Vouchers 


Hutchinson has expressed support for school choice policies. Hutchinson recently signed a bill that expanded the state’s 529 savings accounts to include the possibility of paying for K-12 tuition. 529 programs, which are largely used by upper-middle class families, allow parents to make tax-free deposits to save for higher education (Brookings Institute, 2017).



The former Teach for America executive has experience with school choice policies in Arkansas, as the program uses charter schools for their placements. However, he Henderson’s campaign website makes no explicit statement on school choice policies.


B.    Universal Pre-K/Early Learning  


Hutchinson has expressed support for expanded financial investment in pre-K. According to his campaign website, Hutchinson appropriated $3 million in new funds for Arkansas’ Pre-K program. This was the first appropriation of funds since the program’s 2003 inception. Additionally, Hutchinson added an additional $3 million a year to the pre-kindergarten Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) program to improve the program’s quality.  

According to the website, Arkansas currently ranks 12th in the country in the percentage of 4-year-olds currently in state-funded pre-K and 3rd in the percentage of 3-year-olds. The pre-K program ranks 22nd in terms of per-pupil funding.  



Henderson’s campaign website does not contain any direct references to pre-K but Henderson has expressed support for expanding pre-K access in selected media interviews. Henderson plans to fund this expansion by closing various tax loopholes for the wealthy (FOX 16, 2018).  


C.    Wraparound Services and Community Schools 


During a community forum, Hutchinson expressed support for schools partnering with local organizations to help students. “We needed more foster parents, and churches and faith-based organizations helped us to recruit more foster parents,” he said. “So, this is the kind of partnership that I believe is important (THV 11, 2018).” 



During the same community forum, Henderson also expressed support for similar programs. "We know if [students] don't have anything to do for an extended period of time, they're going to find trouble. That's just part of being a kid. It's our responsibility to keep them busy doing constructive things so that doesn't happen (THV 11, 2018)." 

Overall, both candidates stated that they would support using public funds to support community partnerships within schools but have not offered specific plans.   


D.    Increase in Teacher/School Leader Pay or Professional Development 



While increasing teacher pay has not been a central policy concern during Hutchinson’s time as governor, he has spoken in favor of raising starting teacher pay from $31,000 to $36,000 annually (Texarkana Gazette, 2018).  


Henderson has made raising teacher pay one of the central pillars of his entire campaign. His campaign website has an entire section dedicated to teachers and proposes a variety of financial incentives and loan forgiveness programs for teachers who teach in high-demand subjects and in remote areas (Jared Henderson for Arkansas, 2018).  

The benchmark of Henderson’s teacher plan involves raising the starting teacher salary to $48,000 in 10 years. This would be accomplished via an initial 10 percent raise in starting teacher salaries followed by annual 3.6 percent increases for the next 9 years (FOX 16, 2018).


E.     Investment in Higher Education


Hutchinson’s campaign website states that a goal of his administration is to increase the percentage of Arkansans with post-secondary degrees from 40 percent to 60 percent by 2025. As previously mentioned, Hutchinson has increased investments in higher education and also expended a great deal of political capital to implement a performance funding model in the state.  

In the proposed 2018 budget, Hutchinson pledged an additional $10 million in higher education funded. The majority of this funding is expected to go to the state’s flagship university due to the stipulations of the performance funding formula (Talk Business & Politics, 2018).  

Hutchinson has also requested that Arkansas’ public universities freeze tuition for the 2018-2019 school year (Hutchinson, 2018).  



In contrast to his detailed K-12 platform, Henderson’s campaign website contains no information on postsecondary education and no mention of the subject has been found in interviews.


F.     Any intentional focus on students or color or low-income students



While very few references to low-income and/or minority students exist on Hutchinson’s campaign website, it does highlight that the percentage of minorities taking Computer Science classes in high school has increased annually after the implementation of a program requiring Computer Science to be taught in every public high school in Arkansas.


Henderson’s teacher pay improvement plans includes extra financial incentives for those who decide to teach in low-income school districts.  

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