FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The school year is winding down and districts in Northwest Arkansas are developing budget plans to meet teacher pay raises stipulated by the Arkansas Learns Act.
Rogers School District and Siloam Springs School District say it has been quite a challenge since the Arkansas LEARNS Act for schools is not fully finished.
“We’re not where we need to be, yet. Part of that problem, part of that process is we still don’t have all the rules and know what to go by,” said Shane Patrick, the assistant superintendent of the Siloam Springs School District.
“This was a historic year for school-related legislation, and so, it’s a lot more than normal. And it’s a lot more complicated than normal,” superintendent Jeff Perry said.
Patrick says the district has come up with a salary schedule for their educators.
“We worked really hard to put a salary schedule in place in order to give as much of a raise as we could to everybody and still keep a salary schedule because as the LEARNS Act got rid of the salary schedule for the state,” Patrick said.
Patrick says currently the salaries for their starting teachers are $43,500, so they will have to come up with a $6,000 increase.
“We have some state growth funds that we know we’re going to be getting, and so, what we tried to do is look at all the funding that we had coming in that we didn’t have this year, Any new funding, and we tried to use as much of it — or really — we’d used all of that funding to give as much raise as possible,” Patrick said.
For bigger school districts like Rogers, Perry says the starting pay is around $48,000. He says to cover this raise, the district will be taking money out of the building fund.
“Basically for us, we were able to do it. Some of that money came out of the building fund, which we had put some money back each year to work with the 23 buildings that we have,” Perry said.
However, Perry says anytime the district takes money out of somewhere else there’s always going to be a huge impact.
“Any time that we take money away from a program to pay for something else, that has a negative impact on that because the money is finite,” Perry said.
Both school districts say the money from LEARNS only covers state employees so they will still have to come up with a way to increase pay for federally funded employees.
“That’s pretty significant in our school district and in any school district because that would involve your title folks. It would involve your special ed populations, and then some Title III positions,” Perry said.
“We’ll have to use some of our federal dollars to pay for those raises so that that money has to come out of those federal programs, whether it’s a Title I, II, III or IV or even V,b,” Patrick said.