Jefferson County school districts consider a host of competing factors in determining teachers’ salaries and find some employees leave for greater pay while others arrive for the same reason.

Jefferson County school districts consider a host of competing factors in determining teachers’ salaries and find some employees leave for greater pay while others arrive for the same reason.


Salaries of school district employees must be approved by each district’s board of education. The salary schedule reflects a teacher’s education and years of experience.


To determine the salary schedule, boards must balance competing interests. On one hand, they seek to set a salary high enough to attract qualified people. On the other hand, they are dealing with a finite amount of revenue.


The Pine Bluff School District is constantly recruiting. In light of the salary schedule, the human resources department seeks qualified candidates by attending numerous job fairs and visiting colleges and universities, Pine Bluff School District director of communications Kenetta Ridgell said.


In light of the salary schedule, teachers stay in Pine Bluff but also leave Pine Bluff for various reasons.


"Some teachers are just dedicated to the Pine Bluff School District," Ridgell said in a written statement. "Teachers were also given a raise last year of 1.5 percent. It may not have been a huge increase, but it was a starting point. For the past two years, the district has used a sign-on bonus of $2,000 for high-need areas including English, math, science and special education."


People leave for several reasons, including dissatisfaction with salaries. Pine Bluff gave a teacher exit questionnaire to 16 teachers asking why they were leaving the Pine Bluff School District.


Seventy-five percent of respondents said the turnover in the district is a result of low pay, 19 percent said that pay was not a factor and 6 percent were not sure if pay was a factor.


In Pine Bluff School District, first-year teachers with a bachelor’s in education earn $32,900. Those with a bachelor’s in education plus 18 hours toward a master’s degree earn $33,728. Those with a master’s in education earn $35,911. Those with a master’s plus 15 hours toward a doctorate earn $36,856. Those with a master’s plus 30 hours toward a doctorate earn $37,801.


Teachers with 10 years experience and a bachelor’s degree in education earn $40,766. Those with 10 years experience and a bachelor’s plus 18 hours toward a master’s degree earn $41,594. Those with 10 years experience and a master’s earn $43,777. Those with 10 years experience and a master’s in education plus 15 hours toward a doctorate earn $44,722. Those with a teacher with a master’s plus 30 hours toward a doctorate earn $45,667.


A Pine Bluff School District teacher with 20 years experience and a bachelor’s degree in education earns $49,506. A teacher with 20 years experience and a bachelor’s plus 18 hours toward a master’s degree earns $50,334. A teacher with 20 years experience and a master’s earns $52,517. A teacher with 20 years experience and a master’s plus 15 hours toward a doctorate earns $53,462. A teacher with 20 years and a master’s plus 30 hours toward a doctorate earns $54,407.


White Hall School District Superintendent Larry Smith said that most educators choose their profession to make a difference in the lives of children, rather than making as much money as possible. At any rate, they need to make a living and pay bills like any person, he said.


White Hall’s salary schedule is simultaneously an incentive and a liability in comparison to other districts, Smith said. Most people do not state their reasons for choosing White Hall or leaving White Hall, he said. But Smith said he can sense when salary is a factor because he sees where they are coming from or where they are heading. As a result, Smith knows that salary is a factor in teachers leaving White Hall and applying to White Hall.


"I have not had someone tell me directly that they are leaving for a better-paying teaching job, but I am sure that is a factor," Smith said. "We lose teachers to Benton, Bryant, Hot Springs and Lakeside. People leave for various reasons. Northwestern Arkansas has higher starting salaries than we do. We have lost teachers to northwestern Arkansas for that reason.


"We try to be regionally competitive to attract, hire and retain employees," Smith said. "But at the same time, we have to stay within our budget and hope people want to work here."


Teachers get paid less in comparison to people with a comparable education, Smith said.


"They care about kids and want to make a difference in their lives," he said. "We receive teachers from other districts because we offer better salary. If the pay is better, that is icing on the cake."


White Hall first-year teachers with a bachelor’s degree earn $37,500. Those with a bachelor’s plus 15 hours toward a master’s degree earn $38,271 and those with a master’s earn $39,299.


A teacher with 10 years experience with a bachelor’s degree earns $45,440. Those with 10 years experience and a bachelor’s plus 15 hours toward a master’s degree earn $46,211. Those with 10 years experience and a master’s earn $47,239.


A teacher with 20 years experience with a bachelor’s degree earns $54,046. Those with 20 years experience and a bachelor’s plus 15 hours toward a master’s degree earn $54,817. Those with 20 years experience and a master’s earn $55,845.


In the Dollarway School District, the teachers are collectively asking for a raise of 7 percent. Diane Boyd-Emelife addressed the board on behalf of Dollarway’s teachers. She asked that these employees be given a 7 percent raise in order for Dollarway to be competitive within its geographical area.


"We have watched other districts give raises but have not had one in 12 years," Boyd-Emelife said at a meeting on Oct. 14. "The cost of living has increased but our salaries have not increased."


Dollarway Superintendent Bobby Acklin said he is faced with several factors before he can make a decision on requests to increase the salary schedule. Dollarway is losing students. It lost fewer students last year than it did two years ago. The state helps mitigate the decline through $370,000 in declining enrollment funding last year and $17,000 this year.


Dollarway closed Altheimer Elementary School, which contributed to saving money. But Dollarway has not received enough money in state funding to provide for a raise, Acklin said.


"We do not have any additional funds to put into the salary schedule," Acklin said. "We are dealing with teacher absenteeism. When a teacher is absent, we pay the teacher and the substitute teacher. The more absenteeism we have, the more the pot of money is drained. I have to watch our attendance."


In the meantime, Acklin said he will consider if Dollarway can pay a one-time bonus for its teachers.


Acklin said he suspects Dollarway loses teachers because of dissatisfaction with their salaries.


"I am sure there are some who leave because they get a job elsewhere that is paying more," Acklin said. "We do not want teachers to leave. This spring, we will analyze our salary schedule and consider adding a 3 percent raise.


"We recognize the fact that our salary schedule is not the best or most lucrative," Acklin said. "It is not that we do not want to give a raise. But the money has to come from somewhere. Even a bonus is not the answer because this is one-time money."


Dollarway first-year teachers with a bachelor’s in education earn $33,075. Those with a bachelor’s in education plus 15 hours toward a master’s degree earn $35,075. Those with a master’s earn $37,075.


A teacher with 10 years experience and a bachelor’s degree in education earns $37,575. A teacher with 10 years experience and a bachelor’s plus 15 hours toward a master’s degree earn $39,575. A teacher with 10 years experience and a master’s earns $41,575.


A teacher with 20 years experience and a bachelor’s degree in education earns $42,575. A teacher with 20 years experience and a bachelor’s plus 15 hours toward a master’s degree earns $44,575. A teacher with 20 years experience and a master’s earns $46,575.


Watson Chapel School District Superintendent Danny Hazelwood said his district faces the same budgetary factors as its neighbors. In his seven years in Watson Chapel, Hazelwood said that the salary schedule has not been adjusted.


"I have not heard of employees leaving because we do not pay enough," Hazelwood said. "We are competitive with everyone around us.


"We have teachers come here for our salary schedule plus insurance benefits," Hazelwood said. "Our employees would like to have a raise. Unless we are growing, we cannot afford a raise. We lose students every year, but our salary schedule does not drop."


A decline in students has translated into Watson Chapel receiving less money from the state. Consequently, Watson Chapel has reduced certain positions when people retire or leave for another job, Hazelwood said. This is as opposed to making a proactive elimination of a position through a reduction in force, he said.


"The challenge is paying the employees with limited revenue," Hazelwood said. "We are able not to have to cut positions. We hope to level off, so we will not have to worry about next year. … [Otherwise] we may have to cut positions next year."


Watson Chapel first-year teachers with a bachelor’s in education earn $36,500. Those with a master’s degree earn $40,300. Those with a doctorate earn $42,400.


A Watson Chapel teacher with 10 years experience and a bachelor’s degree earns $42,250. Those with 10 years experience and a master’s degree earn $46,050. Those with 10 years experience and a doctorate earn $48,150.


A Watson Chapel teacher with 20 years experience and a bachelor’s degree earns $48,000. Those with 20 years experience and a master’s degree earn $51,800. Those with 20 years experience and a doctorate earn $53,900.