LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday his office and private donors will spend a total of $6 million on a partnership with Teach for America aimed at bringing more than 200 new teachers to southern and eastern Arkansas and Little Rock.

LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday his office and private donors will spend a total of $6 million on a partnership with Teach for America aimed at bringing more than 200 new teachers to southern and eastern Arkansas and Little Rock.


In a news conference at the state Capitol, the governor said he will provide $3 million from his discretionary funds to the New York-based nonprofit organization to help it put about 150 new teachers in rural school districts in the southern and eastern regions of the state over the next three years.


The teachers will be placed in districts where at least 86 percent of the student population is eligible for free and reduced lunches, he said.


Hutchinson also said members of the Little Rock business community have pledged to provide an additional $3 million in private funds to help Teach for America put about 65 new teachers in the Little Rock School District over the next three years.


The state took over the district in January 2015 because six of the its schools were in academic distress. Superintendent Baker Kurrus said the teachers supported by the private funding will be placed in the schools and subjects with the highest need.


The public-private partnership will be "an extraordinary opportunity in Central Arkansas and South and East Arkansas to inspire a new generation of young people, to utilize the talents of some incredible teachers, and to see the difference that it makes in the lives of our young people, in the product that we produce and the improvements that we can see in education in this state," Hutchinson said.


The teachers supported by the state’s share of the money will reach at least 9,000 students, and teachers supported by private funding will reach up to 4,000 students, he said.


Jared Henderson, executive director of Teach for America in Arkansas, joined Hutchinson in the news conference and voiced gratitude for the "incredible, transformational investment."


"We’re looking forward to approaching this work with respect and humility so that we earn over time the trust of our students, families and new colleagues," Henderson said.


Teach for America has operated in the Arkansas Delta for 24 years.


State Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, attended the news conference and told reporters later she was concerned that the partnership would put "a bandage" on a problem instead of addressing the cause, which she said would require investing not just in new teachers but in economic development in communities that struggle to attract teachers.


"Teach for America is not to blame here. The blame lies with the people who continue to put money into these boutique solutions rather than getting our hands dirty and asking ourselves, ‘So why is it that teachers won’t move to Marianna?’" she said.