Arkadelphia board prepares to tackle LEARNS salaries

By JOEL PHELPS | The Arkadelphian

The Arkadelphia Board of Education began talks Monday of how to implement state-mandated raises for teachers.

The newly signed Arkansas LEARNS Act will increase teacher salaries from a minimum of $36,000 to $50,000 beginning in the 2023-24 school year. The act requires school districts to pay teachers at least $2,000 more for the 2023-24 school year, regardless of their current salary. An experienced teacher who makes $49,000 a year will make $51,000 once that increase is made, while a newly hired teacher with no experience will make $50,000.

The law also removes the minimum salary schedule for teachers with more education and experience but encourages districts to set their own salary schedules. Superintendent Nikki Thomas said the school district isn’t prepared to include all of its existing pay steps in the new salary schedule.

READ MORE: What is the Arkansas LEARNS Act?

The amount of state funding the district will receive is still in its draft phase, but the current figure is about $900,000. If the district were to incorporate all of its current pay scale steps into the salaries, it would cost roughly $1.3 million, Thomas said. She added that next year — “when we really see the money we get” — the district will have a better grasp on how it can spend the state funding.

School board president Blake Bell voiced concern over losing teachers to districts that will offer higher salaries for the upcoming school year. “We’ve got to assume there are going to be some districts out there that are going to go a little bit rogue” in setting their salary schedules, “so we’ve got to be prepared for that.”

District administration will be meeting with the Personnel Policy Committee in coming days to finalize the salary schedule, and the school board will consider its approval at the April 18 board meeting. The district must adopt the salary schedule by the end of this month, and contracts will be finalized by May 1.

Arkadelphia School District employees get one-time $1,000 bonus

The board gave unanimous approval for a one-time, $1,000 bonus for the district’s contracted staff. These employees include teachers, principals, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, secretaries, custodians or anyone with a contract. Excluded in this raise will be cafeteria workers, whose employment is with Chartwells, a vendor of the school district.

Thomas said the district had the funds available from this year’s budget to cover the expense.

Arkadelphia teachers last received a $1,000 bonus in 2022 for the holiday season.


The board met for 38 minutes in executive session. Upon reconvening in public, the board approved the following resignations:

Julia Rawls, special education teacher, Goza

Marvetta Farnam, counselor clerk, AHS

Griffin Pritchard, cheerleader sponsor