University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

News From The Capitol: March 11, 2015

In AR Legislature on March 12, 2015 at 6:16 am

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The Senate Committee on Education met twice today and voted on several bills related to K-12 education.

Workforce Development

Sen. Jane English presented SB368, one of several bills this session to deal with training students for careers in technical fields. SB368 would overhaul the state’s various workforce development and career education efforts in favor of a more streamlined, coordinated system. Industry representatives described the lack of collaboration among technical career stakeholders and the skills gap that leaves good jobs unfilled for lack of technically prepared applicants. Several senators observed that secondary schools’ focus on four-year degrees has left students with other aspirations without support, and that attitudes toward technical careers must change. The bill passed.

Sen. Bobby Pierce presented SB371, which would allow school districts to partner with state-supported providers of technical education for expanded course offerings and to use NSLA funds for technical education opportunities. This bill also passed.

Teacher Workload

Sen. Alan Clark presented SB366 to provide additional compensation to teachers who voluntarily teach more than the maximum number of students per day and/or teach during their preparation period. The bill does not authorize exceeding the maximum class size. The bill passed out of committee without opposition.

Lottery Scholarships

Sen. Jake Files presented SB895 to limit eligibility for lottery scholarships to students whose families earn less than $150,000 annually. Discussion centered on the need to pare eligibility to maintain solvency versus the intent of the program to benefit everyone. The bill failed in a close vote.

Facilities Funding

Sen. Jim Hendren presented SB789 to establish a facilities funding program for open enrollment public charter schools. The bill specifies the criteria a school must meet to apply for funding and how the funding could be used. The Commission for Arkansas Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation would be responsible for developing program rules. Opponents of SB789, including the Arkansas School Boards Association and Arkansas Association for Educational Administrators, pointed to the absence of a priority basis for funding in the bill and the lack of a facilities needs assessment for charter schools. Leaders of the KIPP and e-Stem charter schools explained their challenges in acquiring use of adequate facilities. After a spirited discussion, the bill passed.

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