Bonuses Imminent For 3,000 Arkansas Educators Under New Program

A total of $10 million in bonuses will be distributed.

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Education Secretary Jacob Oliva talk about the LEARNS Act and what it means for K-12 education in Arkansas at an invitation-only town hall in El Dorado on June 6, 2023. (Randall Lee/The Governor’s Press Office)

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Nearly 3,000 Arkansas teachers can expect a boost to their paycheck by the end of the month, according to an announcement from Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders Tuesday afternoon.

The bonuses are part of the Merit Teacher Incentive Fund Program, which was created through a major education overhaul in 2023, the Arkansas LEARNS Act. The law also raised the minimum starting salary for all Arkansas teachers to $50,000 a year.

“Great education starts with great teachers. That’s why one of my first acts as governor was to raise teacher pay across the board and reward our best educators,” Sanders said in a statement. “This year’s merit bonuses will incentivize teachers to continue tackling our state’s toughest assignments and help every Arkansas student thrive.”

Bonuses will reach approximately 10% of Arkansas’ certified teachers with Cross, DeWitt and McGehee school districts reporting the highest percentage of their staff receiving bonuses. Statewide, the average bonus is approximately $3,300, and nearly three dozen educators will receive the maximum $10,000 bonus provided through the program.

A total of $10 million in bonuses will be distributed, Sanders said.

Awarded teachers include those who “demonstrated outstanding growth in student performance, served as a mentor to aspiring teachers who participated in yearlong residencies or taught in a subject, geographical, or designation area experiencing a critical teacher shortage,” according to the governor’s office.

The Division of Elementary and Secondary Education identified recipients through a variety of state systems and student assessment data.

“We know for a fact that the teacher in the classroom has the biggest impact on student learning,” said Education Secretary Jacob Oliva. “The best educators deserve recognition for their excellence, and we are proud to recognize these educators for demonstrating a commitment to learning and ensuring their students succeed in the future.”

While the Cross, DeWitt and McGehee districts have a higher percentage of teachers receiving bonuses, those districts do not also have the highest average bonus in the state.

In the Clinton School District, for example, just 5% of teachers will receive a bonus through the program, but the average bonus is valued at $4,000. The average bonus at the Genoa Central district in southwest Arkansas is $6,429, and 7.1% of teachers can expect a boost.

At least 16 school districts have no teachers receiving a bonus, according to the state education department. Among those schools are Cedarville in Northwest Arkansas, Mammoth Spring along the northern border and Marvell-Elaine along the Mississippi River.

Arkansas Advocate is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arkansas Advocate maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sonny Albarado for questions: info@arkansasadvocate.com. Follow Arkansas Advocate on Facebook and X.

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