New teacher salary requirement will not impact local districts

Sarah Perry
Staff Writer

While all of the school districts in Saline County were closed Monday in honor of President’s Day, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a law raising the minimum teacher salaries in the state.

The Teacher Salary Enhancement Act requires that by the 2022-23 school year, teachers have a minimum salary of $36,000.

All of the schools in Saline County have starting teacher salaries above the new minimums.

The starting salaries for Bauxite teachers is $40,000, according to a district official.

The starting salary for Bryant teachers is currently “quite a bit above,” the new minimum salary at $41,080, and district officials are always trying to recruit and retain the best staff, according to Bryant Superintendent Dr. Karen Walters.

Benton Superintendent Dr. Mike Skelton echoed similar feelings.

“The Benton School District Board of Directors and Administration continue to strive for excellence in our teacher salaries and benefits, our facilities, and our students’ safety and educational needs.  Although House Bill 1145 will not directly affect the Benton School District because our current minimum salary is above the minimum limit required by the law, we will continue to do all we can to ensure that our teachers are paid at the highest level that the district can financially sustain,” he said.

The starting salary for Benton School District teachers is $37,675, according to the 2018 salary schedule for licensed personnel.

Even though Saline County schools are already meeting salary requirements, 171 of the 238 school districts in the state will be impacted by the new law.
Walters said she agrees that teachers need a raise, but she is concerned that the state is not provided needed funding for schools in rural areas to fill in the gaps.

While signing the law Monday, Hutchinson announced that he has requested $60 million be set aside to assist school districts that need to increase teacher pay.

None of the schools in Saline County will receive any of this funding.

Schools in Saline County can provide higher salaries for teachers since they can operate efficiently and have a growing tax base, Walters added.

Harmony Grove Superintendent Heath Bennett said despite his district already paying above the new state minimum, he is excited for all of the teachers in the state that will be receiving pay raises.

"There is not a teacher out there that does not deserve to be making more than what they are already making," he added.

According to the 2018-19 Harmony Grove School District salary scheduled for certified personnel, the starting salary is $38,700.