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‘We’re excited:’ Rural superintendents react to increase in teacher salary

Updated: Apr. 14, 2021 at 10:22 PM CDT
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SHARP COUNTY, Ark. (KAIT) - Arkansas teachers will soon see a raise as Governor Asa Hutchinson signed two bills Monday raising the median teacher salary by $2,000 over the next two years.

Highland Superintendent Don Sharp and Cave City Superintendent Steve Green say they’ve been preparing for this bill over the past few years and they’re excited to see it get passed.

Green said the district has been planning for the bill in three phases.

“Over three years, we would raise our base salary by $1,000, by $1,100, and then another $1,100,” Green said. “That would put us at $36,000.”

But, after facing the pandemic, Green and the school board decided to go to Phase 3 of that plan, raising the minimum salary for teachers by $2,200 to $36,000, starting next year.

“We’re excited because it puts some money in our teachers’ hands after a most difficult year,” Green said. “We’ll also benefit the year after next.”

With the benefit coming from the state pitching in $185 per student for districts that fall under the median salary.

Helping schools like Cave City and Highland counter the cost of raising the minimum salary. For Cave City, that means an extra $225,000 yearly.

Green mentioned the state increasing the minimum foundation money they have will help balance the cost.

“Those amounts always tie into raises, step increments, and stuff like that,” Green said. “[Those are] things that we need to have to be able to take care of those recurring costs.”

Highland Superintendent Don Sharp didn’t have an exact number as he expects enrollment to change within the next year, but he believes the bill will help retain teachers.

“It’s difficult sometimes to project more than a year or two down the road,” Sharp said. “I think that will help rural schools like Highland compete with maybe some of the districts that are considered to be more wealthy.”

Sharp believes the bill allows Highland to stay competitive, but he also says the district will be able to handle the increase financially.

“We’ve been planning for the salary increases that we thought were coming,” Sharp said. “With that and the increase in funding from the state, we think we’ll be okay.”

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