University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Legislative Update/Recap (Spring Break Edition)

In The View from the OEP on March 26, 2013 at 8:50 am


Welcome back from Spring Break! We hope it was relaxing and restful, and if you traveled out of the state, hopefully you got to spend time where the weather was warmer! Although the public schools and colleges were on spring break last week, we stayed busy at the OEP fine-tuning our NEW website. In cased you missed this news, we blogged about it yesterday, so we hope you get the chance to check it out.

Not all public employees were on vacation last week. In fact, our state legislature was hard at work pushing new laws through the legislative system. We took advantage of the break from classes and spent some time in Little Rock, thus, today we want to fill you in on what has been happening at the Capitol – as both the House and Senate continue to be busy!

After much compromise occurred to create HB1528, the Senate passed HB1528 (sponsored by Representative Mark Biviano, R-Searcy, and Senator Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale) in a 32-3 vote. The bill now has to be signed by Governor Beebe. The bill establishes a 5 to 11 member charter authorizing board within the Department of Education – with members appointed by the Commissioner of Education. The State Board of Education will only play a role in charter school decisions if the State Board requests to do so by majority vote.

Both the House and Senate Education Committee agendas are filled with bills – here are a few that were discussed last week:

gradesThe House Education Committee passed HB752 (sponsored by Senator Jim Hendren, R-Gravette, and Representative Debbie Hobbs. R-Rogers). The bill creates an A-F rating system for public schools to replace the Arkansas’ current system (Exemplary, Achieving, Needs Improvement, Needs Improvement – Focus, Needs Improvement – Priority).

The House Education Committee also passed HB425 (sponsored by Senator David Johnson, D-Little Rock, and Representative Robert Dale, R-Dover). The bill amends the distribution of state funding (the foundation formula) to school districts based on 98% of the uniform rate of tax in a district. If a district collects more funding than the foundation formula, the ADE will not distribute funding to that district. This law may be an attempt to prevent additional lawsuits such as those brought by the Fountain Lake and Eureka Springs School Districts in 2011.

In a 26-8 vote, the Senate Education Committee passed SB58 (sponsored by Senator Eddie Joe Williams, R-Cabot) to align School Board elections with the general November election (instead of in a separate election in September). The bill has now been referred to the House Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs.

chalkboard dollar sign

The Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee votes on an education related bill, SB740. The bill, sponsored by Senator Jane English (R-Little Rock) and Representative Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) failed in a 3-2 voice vote (5 votes were required to pass). The bill sought to create tax credits for contributions to a non-profit scholarship fund for low-income students to attend private schools.

This week the House Education Committee will meet twice today (once in the morning, and also this afternoon) then again on Thursday morning (the running agenda for House Education Committee meetings can be found here). Don’t forget, you can stream live video of all House Committee and House Floor meetings on the Arkansas House Website (Note: The House Ed Meeting will begin streaming at 10:00 AM!)

On the opposite side of the Capitol building, the Senate Education Committee will meet Wednesday (the committee’s Monday afternoon meeting was cancelled). We will keep you posted on this week’s events…until then, have a great first week back after spring break!

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