University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

House and Senate Education Committees Meeting Update

In AR Legislature on September 15, 2016 at 12:54 pm

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The education committees of the Arkansas House and Senate met jointly this week and discussed presentations on professional learning communities, Project Future Story, school health services, special education funding.


Professional Learning Communities
“Professional learning communities (PLCs) are our best hope for improving schools,” according to Dr. Robert Eaker who presented the fundamentals of PLCs to the committees on Monday. Eaker said that PLCs require three major cultural shifts in public schools: from “teaching” focus to “learning” focus; from isolated teacher planning to collaborative team planning; and from general outcomes to the learning of individual students “kid by kid, skill by skill, name by name.” Some Arkansas school districts already use PLCs, and legislators talked to Eaker about next steps for bringing the approach to more schools.


Project Future Story
Several students shared their “future stories” with the education committees, introducing themselves as seniors at Southside High School and freshmen or sophomores at UACC Batesville. Project Future Story involves a partnership among SHS, UACCB, Lyon College and Batesville area businesses that allows students to gain college credit and even work experience while in high school. SHS Superintendent Roger Rich explained that the effort is creating career opportunities for students who want to stay in or return to Independence County, and UACCB Chancellor Deborah Frazier said participants benefit from the lower cost and shorter time to degree. Lawmakers lauded the students’ accomplishments and the partnership’s work.


School Health Services
In their annual report to the education committees, the Public Schools Health Services Advisory Committee emphasized the need to employ an RN at each school campus so that districts comply with the Arkansas Nurse Practice Act. Presenters explained the wide range of chronic conditions among students and the types of procedures performed by the school health services staff. No surprise that funding was the main topic of discussion among committee members, including the appropriateness of using state NSL funds for nurses’ salaries and ideas for other funding sources.


Special Education Funding
Following up on the special education task force presentation last month, OEP’s Sivan Tuchman presented an alternative funding model using a student-based allocation that accounts for the severity of the disability and the student’s placement. Tuchman explained that funding all districts at 2.9 special education teachers per 500 students assumes all districts have the same needs; therefore, some districts get too much money while others do not get enough. Calling the student-based allocation model “a more dynamic option for funding students with disabilities,” Tuchman said the approach would meet individual student needs while reducing reliance on catastrophic aid and limiting incentives for inappropriate placements.


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