University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

News From The Capitol: March 12, 2015

In AR Legislature on March 12, 2015 at 8:28 pm

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The House Committee on Education met twice today and heard bills on school funding, school safety, employee health insurance, education commissioner qualifications, district property acquisition, and athletic competition between home school and public school teams.

School Funding

Rep. Bruce Cozart presented HB1663 containing public school funding amounts as recommended by the education adequacy committee for the coming biennium. The bill, which also includes supplemental funding for transportation, passed without opposition.

School Safety

Rep. Scott Baltz presented HB1653 to create the 2015 School Safety Act. The bill modifies current school safety policy by requiring a panic button alert system that connects a caller with 911 and notifies on-site personnel simultaneously. One feature of the system is an app that allows a teacher to activate the panic button with a smartphone. The bill passed and moves on to the House floor. (If the legislation passes, it is still subject to appropriation and funding.)

Employee Health Insurance

Sen. Jim Hendren presented SB535 to require school districts to increase their contribution to employee health insurance by the same percentage as a base salary increase. A change in the contribution rate would take effect in the plan year following the salary increase. Some exceptions are specified in the bill, which passed and moves to the House floor.

Education Commissioner

Rep. Bruce Cozart presented SB681 to modify the qualifications for state education commissioner. Current law specifies the commissioner must be a licensed teacher with a master’s degree and ten years of teaching/administrative experience. SB681 provides those qualifications must be held by the commissioner or deputy commissioner. The committee discussed concerns about making an exception for a key leadership position versus taking an opportunity to be innovative. The bill passed after considerable deliberation.

School District Property Acquisition

Rep. Kim Hendren brought back HB1074 that would allow a school board to acquire property within the boundaries of another school district if the arrangement is agreeable to both districts. The bill was amended so that a bequest or gift of property located within the boundaries of another district could be accepted, but a school structure could not be built on the property unless mutually agreeable. The bill passed and moves on to the House of Representatives.

Athletic Competition

Sen. Jim Hendren presented SB331 to require the Arkansas Activities Association to make rules allowing athletic competition between home school leagues and public school team that want to play each other. Current AAA policy forbids such competition. The bill passed and moves to the House floor.

The Senate education committee will meet next week on Monday and Wednesday; the House education committee meets on Tuesday and Thursday.

 

 

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