Teacher shortages are plaguing schools throughout Arkansas, and the Conway School District is not immune.

With all the recent controversy there — book bans, invasive bathroom rules for transgender students and a proposal to dock teachers’ pay if they talk about slavery, the Holocaust or other “divisive concepts” in the wrong way — Conway Public Schools would do well to consider what kind of work environment they’re offering their educators.


Last week the district hosted an event for all current student interns, formerly called student teachers, to network with the public school system’s principals and other district leaders.

“With teacher shortages at an all-time high throughout the state, Conway Public Schools is hoping to get a head start on hiring teachers and staff for next school year,” a district news release said.


I asked Heather Kendrick, a district spokeswoman, about the local situation.

“Typically, our district has been fortunate to be fully staffed; however, this school year we do have three certified positions being filled by long-term subs,” Kendrick said.


The district’s official enrollment this term is 10,001 students. The base teacher salary is $42,385.

Conway’s first-year teachers and many other Arkansas educators make less than our state’s part-time legislators. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Arkansas lawmakers’ base salary is $42,428. That’s in addition to 57.5 cents in mileage expenses and quite generous per-diem pay — $55 a day if they live within 50 miles of the state Capitol and $151 a day if they live more than 50 miles out. What is the teacher per diem? Zero.

Still, there are dedicated young people who aspire to become teachers. And more than 40 of them attended the intern day event, part of the Conway School District’s program for teacher recruitment and retention, led by director Karen Lasker.

“It was important for us to make an effort to let our student interns know they are valued and wanted here in CPSD,” Lasker said in the release. “These are folks who are already doing outstanding work as interns in our classrooms throughout the district. We want to set them up for success in the hiring process as openings become available this Spring.”


The district plans to host another event on March 4 to meet more prospective job applicants.

In the meantime, applicants scared off by the arch-conservative Conway School Board can find plenty of opportunities elsewhere.