LITTLE ROCK — State Education Commissioner Johnny Key said Monday the state Department of Education is withdrawing a proposal to reduce bonuses for teachers who obtain certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

LITTLE ROCK — State Education Commissioner Johnny Key said Monday the state Department of Education is withdrawing a proposal to reduce bonuses for teachers who obtain certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.


State education officials had proposed scaling down a program that provides teachers who obtain national board certification a $5,000 annual bonus. To avoid an expected shortfall, the proposed revision would provide the full $5,000 amount annually only for the first period of certification — which the national board will reduce from 10 years to five years in 2017 — and would establish a scale for decreasing and phasing out bonuses over one re-certification period.


"I’ve been in conversation with the governor on the national board rules, and he has requested that the department pull those at this time," Key told a joint meeting of the House and Senate education committees Monday.


Key said the proposal was prompted by "a situation that is positive."


"We have more teachers who are seeking and receiving national board certification, we have teachers who are continuing to get re-certified," he said.


But without changes to the program, which currently receives $13.8 million in annual state funding, the growing number of certified teachers would result in a $3 million shortfall by 2018, Key told reporters after Monday’s meeting.


As recently as Friday afternoon, the state Department of Education was standing by the proposal despite objections from teachers and some legislators. Reporters asked Key what had changed since then.


"The governor was receiving feedback over the weekend," he said. "He and I talked this morning, and he said for now let’s pull it back and see if we can find some other ideas — no commitment on new dollars or anything like that, just look to see how we can approach it maybe from a different way."


During the meeting, Key said education officials reached out to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and to board-certified teachers in Arkansas for input before drafting the proposal. He said the Education Department would be willing to get additional input from a broader group, including legislators.


Sen. Uvalde Lindsey, D-Fayetteville, moved that the matter be referred to a yet-to-be-created subcommittee. The motion carried in a voice vote.


Arkansas Education Association President Brenda Robinson said after the meeting, "We know the national board is truly, by research, a great investment in student achievement … so just to hear him say that they wanted to stop and engage and collaborate more is a step moving forward. We’re going to work with our lawmakers to make sure that teachers’ voices are being heard, because our students are counting on it."


Last week, 10 members of the House Education Committee sent Key a letter asking him to withdraw the proposal. House Minority Leader Michael John Gray, D-Augusta, who wrote the letter, told reporters Monday he was pleased that Key and Hutchinson responded.


"I’ve really got to praise the governor for taking the lead here and saying, hey, this is an important program, it deserves more time and more vetting than just running through a rules change, and we need to come up with some solutions to sustain this program," Gray said.