University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

News From The Capitol: March 27, 2015

In AR Legislature on March 27, 2015 at 6:37 pm

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The Senate Committee on Education met this afternoon and discussed several bills with implications for K-12. The most vigorous discussions related to bills on national school lunch state categorical funding and teaching American History.

NSL State Funding
Sen. Joyce Elliott presented SB851 that would narrow the list of uses for NSL state funds. Elliott acknowledged that her intent was not to ask the committee to vote on a specific list today but to put education stakeholders on notice to begin looking for replacement funds. She said that two adequacy studies could not determine the impact that NSL funds are having on closing the achievement gap for children from low-income families because the money is distributed across so many programs. A spokesperson for Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families (AACF) concurred, saying the agency’s research into the effectiveness of the state’s $220 million investment has been inconclusive due to the breadth of spending. Elliott reminded committee members that OEP, Picus Odden, and the Bureau of Legislative Research (BLR) all have recommended that the legislature focus on the intent of the NSL funds to address the achievement gap by paring the list of allowable uses. Committee members agreed that difficult choices are necessary. Elliott pulled the bill and referred it for interim study.

History Lessons
Sen. Linda Collins-Smith presented SB1007 (amended) to provide more coverage of American history in social studies and history classes in grades 7-12. Collins-Smith expressed concern that students receive only limited exposure to important periods in history that shaped our nation. Some committee members agreed that more class time should be devoted to history, and Debbie Jones of ADE explained the arduous work of the curriculum committee in determining how best to cover the growing body of material. After much discussion, the bill passed.

These bills also passed in committee today: HB1623 to increase the minimum salary schedule for teachers, HB1991 to provide a duty-free, uninterrupted 30-minute lunch period for full time classified school employees, HB1552 to establish a private school option for students with disabilities who are not learning in public schools.

Both the House and Senate education committees meet on Monday, March 30, at 10 a.m.

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