LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – New federal grants are heading into Arkansas designed to expand teacher hiring and training in the rural schools in the state.

Officials with the U.S. Department of Education said the $6,504,300 Teacher and School Leader grants are intended for teacher and student development in rural areas.

The Cross County School District, the only Arkansas school district in the announcement, was awarded $747,426. District superintendent Nathan Morris plans to use the funding for teacher recruitment.

“This grant will be used to continue to recruit, grow and retain teachers and principals,” Morris said. “We believe that the single biggest factor to student growth is to have a high-quality teacher to lead them daily.  We will continue to provide performance-based pay with our teachers along with ongoing, job-embedded professional development.”

Morris added that the money would provide for new positions in the district.

“Furthermore, we are excited to add some additional staff with this grant. We will add two additional Master teachers,” he said. “One for new/novice staff and one that will help in implementation of our character education initiative.”

The lion’s share of the grant funding heading to Arkansas, $5,756,874, went to the Arkansas Public School Resource Center, which provides consulting and services for Arkansas schools. The grant will expand the center’s PEER Network, which supports rural teachers and students.

Rachel Horn, PEER project director, said the funding will allow the program to add 45 additional schools to the 60 already participating in the program as were provided through a 2021 award. The fund will continue the program’s support, she said.

The PEER network expands and enhances teachers, including providing for teacher-leader development, with the funding allowing for developing additional resources, Horn said.

“In addition to training and system development, these funds provide stipends for additional teacher and school leader responsibilities, additional certification, as well as incentives for student growth and achievement,” she said.

More than $114.7 million was awarded nationally from the Department of Education program.