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Federal stimulus gives Arkansas teachers bonuses | News

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Federal stimulus gives Arkansas teachers bonuses

Every year, e-Stem Charter School gives its teachers bonuses and federal stimulus money will allow that trend to continue. English teacher Jenny Choate says teachers deserve a pat on the back.

"It's icing on the cake. It's a nice bonus, but I love to teach anyways," says Choate.

The federal jobs bill gives Arkansas schools $193 per student, but at e-Stem, CEO John Bacon says a private foundation has been funding the average $7500 bonuses, which are based on performance.

"As that phased out, we would take on a portion through our budget, so that after 3 or 4 years, we would be fully funding it through our school budget," says Bacon.

Executive Director Rob McGill of Academics Plus Charter School also hopes to use the extra cash for bonuses.

"We want to be competitive with other districts that are in Pulaski County," says Rob McGill.

Yet, State Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell says Governor Mike Beebe made numerous calls to President Obama for fear Arkansas would not get any funds since the state did not experience major layoffs.

"Arkansas should not be punished because it had taken care of its budget issues and budgeted conservatively," says Tom Kimbrell.

There are rules on how the money can be used.

"If you do hire someone, it's a one to two year commitment," says McGill.

The stimulus money must be used by September 2012 and it cannot be used for administrative costs, so superintendents cannot give themselves raises or bonuses.

Dr. Kimbrell says this type of funding hasn't been seen in education since the1970s of Title I that helped low-income students.

"Here's some additional funds and use it wisely for the betterment of kids," says Kimbrell.

Several school districts haven't decided on how this money will be used.

Conway's school board will vote Tuesday evening on a 3 percent bonus. Academics Plus Charter School board will vote next month.

Kimbrell estimates half of Arkansas school districts will choose to use the money toward bonuses.