Potential bonus for Arkansas teachers could hurt smaller schools

Published: Jul. 27, 2022 at 6:33 PM CDT
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MAMMOTH SPRING, Ark. (KAIT) - Since the beginning of July, teacher pay increases have been a hot-button topic across the state.

Multiple state legislators have spoken out, asking teachers to contact their school board members and superintendents and ask the same questions.

On Thursday, July 21, the Arkansas Legislative Council voted to recommend a $5,000 bonus for teachers and a $2,500 bonus for classified staff.

If the bonuses are ordered to be paid at the school level, they will be taken out of the American Rescue Plan funds.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke against the measure, saying schools had previously planned this money and would place them in a “unique” situation if they had to spend it elsewhere.

In smaller schools, such as those in the Mammoth Spring School District, money is always tight.

Superintendent Jennie Whisnant explained the district averages nearly 450 students and is one of the smallest schools in the state.

“Teachers definitely deserve more money than they are making, of course. However, we have to look at funding, make sure the funding is there,” she said.

Whisnant added the budget becomes even more strict when significant issues such as teacher pay come up in the conversation.

“We do try to budget in advance and hope that by the end of the year, we come out on target,” she said. “I always budget real conservative so that when something comes up, we can work in those parameters of how much money we have left.”

If the bonuses go through, Whisnant said some projects such as new windows and doors at the school will be placed on hold.

No matter what, Whisnant said they want to make sure they provide the best education for their students.

“We do try to do our best, but sometimes things happen, and we have to cut corners in different places. The main thing is that our kids still receive the quality education that they deserve,” she said.

Whisnant added even if the bonuses go through, the school district will be able to operate this fall.

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