It was a busy day at the Capitol! Both the House and Senate Committees on Education met today.
The House Committee on Education voted Do Pass recommendations on six bills and a resolution in this morning’s meeting.
Home School Testing
Rep. Nate Bell presented HB1381 to repeal a provision that requires achievement testing for home schooled students. Bell said the $250,000 annual expense for testing process is wasted, because no data are reported to the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE). Committee members discussed whether the state’s obligation for education is met without a testing requirement. The bill passed and moves on to the House of Representatives.
Sen. Missy Irvin presented SB342 to amend the School Recognition and Reward Program. The bill provides for performance-based funding of $100 per student for schools in the top 5% in student performance and $50 per student for schools in the remainder of the top 10%. The bill also provides for $100 per student for schools in the top 5% in academic growth and $50 per student in the remainder of the top 10%. Currently, the program rewards are for student performance and academic growth combined. The bill has already passed the full Senate and now moves to the House.
Employment and Earnings Outcomes
Sen. Alan Clark presented SB211 that makes the Department of Workforce Services responsible for a report of employment and earnings of graduates from degree and certificate programs of state supported higher education institutions. Two types of reports would be produced: one for freshmen entering two- and four-year institutions and another for public school students in grades 7-12. The purpose of the bill is the help students and their families make informed decisions about fields of study and careers. The bill passed without opposition.
Rep. Greg Leding presented HB1515 to require an accreditation review panel to conduct at least one open forum during the on-campus accreditation review process for public schools and school districts. The bill passed without opposition.
Charter School Lottery
Rep. Leding also introduced HB1516 to require transparency in public charter school lotteries. Leding emphasized he believes lotteries are being conducted in good faith, and the bill is meant to ease any concerns of parents. This bill also passed without opposition.
School District Property Acquisition
Rep. Kim Hendren introduced HB1074 that would allow a school board to acquire property within the boundaries of another school district only if the arrangement is agreeable to both districts. The bill moves on to the House of Representatives.
School Bus Advertising
Rep. Dan Douglas presented HB1495 to permit school boards to allow advertising on school buses. The bill tasks the Commission for Arkansas Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation with developing the guidelines and provides that revenue generated from advertising could be used for transportation purposes only. After a lively discussion of issues of propriety and free speech, the bill passed.
Take your Legislator to School
Rep. Charlotte Douglas presented a concurrent resolution, HCR1008, to designate September as “Take your Legislator to School Month.” Douglas said she collaborated with 2014 Teacher of the Year Jonathan Crossley to develop the resolution as a way to promote positive relationships among policymakers and the school officials and students in their legislative districts. The resolution passed.
Today the Senate Committee on Education passed six bills that move to the full Senate for consideration:
SB681 to establish the qualifications for state education commissioner and deputy commissioner;
SB455 to allow part-time traditional students to receive the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship;
SB535 to require school districts to increase their contribution to employee health insurance by the same percentage as a base salary increase;
SB591 to allow long-term substitute teachers and retired teachers to serve as proctors for statewide assessments;
SB623 to clarify the training requirements for school board members pertaining to interpreting audit reports; and
SB634 to amend the act governing registered volunteers in public schools as it relates to athletic programs in grades 7-12.