University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

News From The Capitol: March 4, 2015

In AR Legislature on March 4, 2015 at 4:59 pm

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On Tuesday, March 3, the House Committee on Education heard testimony on K-12 bills related to administering medication to students with diabetes, granting waivers to school districts like those of nearby public school charter schools, and eliminating the PARCC assessment after this school year.

Administering Medication
Rep. Bill Gossage presented HB1395 that would authorize a volunteer to administer insulin and glucagon to a student with diabetes, but only in an emergency situation in which the school nurse is unavailable. The bill specifies that a student’s parents must have made a request in advance, and the request must be approved by the student’s physician. A school employee must volunteer and be trained. Several parents of diabetic students gave passionate testimony for and against the bill, and committee discussion touched on whether more nurses are needed in schools. The committee approved a Do Pass recommendation.

Waivers for School Districts
Rep. Reginald Murdock presented HB1377 that would allow school districts the same waivers granted to open-enrollment charter schools that draw from their districts. Murdock, several superintendents, and a school board president from eastern Arkansas testified that some of the policies waived for charter schools have penalized schools districts competing for the same students. During the lengthy and often animated discussion, proponents and opponents agreed the depth of the public conversation was important and overdue. The bill received a Do Pass recommendation in a close vote.  Keep an eye out for more information from OEP on this interesting topic! 

Limiting PARCC
Rep. Mark Lowery introduced HB1241 that would eliminate the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test in June 2015. Representatives of the Arkansas School Counselors Association (ArSCA) spoke in favor of the bill and shared results of a school counselor survey that cited technology difficulties and the need for more teachers in classrooms during testing. The Arkansas Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (AASCD) and Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families (AACF) spoke against the bill, saying the Governor’s common core task force should be allowed to conduct its work before any assessment options are eliminated. The committee voted a Do Pass recommendation, and the bill moves to the House of Representatives.

This morning the Senate education committee passed bills related to school consolidation and athletic competition between home school and public school teams.

School Consolidation
Sen. Blake Johnson and Rep. Bruce Cozart presented HB1263 that would allow school districts with fewer than 350 students to request a waiver from consolidation if the district is not in fiscal, facility or academic distress. The bill passed through committee without opposition and moves to the Senate floor.

Athletic Competition
Sen. Jim Hendren presented SB331 to require the Arkansas Activities Association (AAA) to make rules allowing athletic competition between home school teams and public school teams that want to play each other. Current AAA policy forbids such competition. According to testimony, Arkansas home school teams often travel out of state to compete, yet other states’ home school teams can play against Arkansas public school teams in tournaments here. SB331 would not force competition between teams but would require the AAA to make policies allowing it. The bill passed by a narrow margin and goes on to the Senate.

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