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Taylor Wilson

Gema Zamarro, Andrew Camp, Josh McGee, Taylor Wilson, Miranda Vernon.

Attracting and retaining high-quality teachers is a pressing policy concern. Increasing teacher salaries and creating more attractive compensation packages are often proposed as a potential solution. Signed into law in March 2023, the LEARNS Act increased Arkansas's minimum teacher salary from $36,000 to $50,000, guaranteed all teachers a minimum raise of $2,000, and added flexibility allowing school districts to deviate from seniority-based traditional salary schedules. To study school districts’ adjustments to the new legislation, we collected information about districts' teacher compensation policies one year before and the first year of implementation. We also integrated this data with teachers' administrative records to study patterns of teacher retention and mobility. Our results reveal a more equitable distribution of starting teacher salaries across districts, with minimal variation. The LEARNS Act notably increased funding for rural and high-poverty districts, mitigating the negative association between starting salaries and district poverty rates. However, the initial effects on teacher retention and mobility were modest. While some positive trends emerged, such as reduced probabilities of teachers transitioning to non-instructional roles and increased new teacher placement in geographic areas of shortage, broader impacts on retention and mobility were limited in the first year of implementation.

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