Posted Date: 03/14/2023
The De Queen Public Schools Board of Directors met in regular session on Monday, March 13th, 2023 and hired several new staff members, and heard a report on the Arkansas LEARNS Act from Superintendent Jason Sanders.
On March 8th, Gov. Sarah Sanders signed the Arkansas LEARNS Act into law. The 145-page piece of legislation is broad in its coverage and calls for changes in many areas of the state’s education system, including teaching salaries, per-student funding, and the creation of a school voucher program. The new law has now entered the rules and regulations phase being carried out by the Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education which must be approved by the state Board of Education. Until that process is complete, it will be difficult for school officials to answer the many questions surrounding the new law.
Superintendent Sanders began Monday’s board meeting by updating board members on the status of the law and explaining how the district was preparing for the changes. The new law requires a minimum salary of $50,000 for all teachers and a $2,000 raise for any teachers already earning more than the minimum. “We think that’s good that we can pay our teachers more and recruit teachers to our profession,” Sanders said. “We would like to have seen more funding to retain our quality veteran teachers. Unfortunately, that was not in this law. But we are going to be able to give all of our certified staff a $2000 raise for our veteran teachers. We are happy about that.”
The new law also removes the state’s minimum salary schedule for teachers with more education and experience but allows districts the option to set their own salary schedules. However, districts will not know if that is a possible option until they receive funding figures from the state. Superintendent Sanders explained to the board that the district is still waiting on exact revenue figures coming in to meet the requirements of Arkansas LEARNS and the exact figures of foundation money the district receives for each student. “Until that revenue information comes in, it is hard for us right now to look at our salary schedules or look at what we will be able to do next year,” Sanders said. “But, as soon as we get those revenue numbers we will be able to get work on the salary end.”
One of the more debated areas of the LEARNS act is the creation of a voucher program that could direct per-student funding away from public schools. Superintendent Sanders explained he is confident in the product that De Queen Public Schools is offering. “I always feel like a parent knows best for their child. We respect the right of all parents to place their children where they want to be educated, “Sanders said. “We feel like competition is good. We have a great school here at De Queen. We are one of the Top 20 academic schools in the state of Arkansas. We’ve got great kids and feel like we have many great successful programs. So, we certainly feel like we have a great product to offer parents and we feel like our success speaks for itself.”
The many changes coming coupled with many unanswered questions have left families, teachers, and educational staff across the state anxiously waiting. Sanders assured the board that the new changes would not prevent the district from continuing to offer a great education to its students. “We’ve got great schools. And we are great because we have great teachers. They show up every day and take care of our babies. I can’t say enough about what they do,” Sanders stated. “We feel like we offer a great option for parents here at De Queen. We’ve always done that and we will continue to do that in the future regardless of the new law.”
In other business, board members approved the following personnel hires:
Josie Miller - Science Teacher
Jonathan Lawrence - Ag Teacher
Reid Maag - Assistant Football Coach
Estiven Garcia - Assistant Football and Assistant Soccer Coach
Jacob Paxson - Jr. High Boys Basketball Coach
Ruby Diaz - Special Ed Paraprofessional
Rebekah Larremore - ALE Paraprofessional
The next monthly school board meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 18th at 5:30 PM