Thursday, April 29, 2021
Reflecting on big wins for Arkansas education in 2021
The 2021Arkansas legislative session came to an end this week with several big wins chalked up for education.

The Reform Alliance congratulated legislators for making education a top priority, especially those who supported measures that created educational opportunity for students. Here are some highlights:
  • Creation of a tax credit scholarship program under SB680 (now Act 904)
Image Source: Education Freedom Institute. EFI has tracked active legislation throughout the country. Click the map to see updates.
  • Changes to the IEP requirements for the Succeed Scholarship under SB89 (now Act 741)
  • Expansion of Succeed Scholarship eligibility to military families under HB1446 (now Act 689)
  • Expansion of sales tax exemption to include equipment under SB244 (now Act 914)
  • Increase of allowable tax deduction amount for teachers' expenses under HB1157 (now Act 971)
  • Creation of the Teacher Salary Equalization Fund under SB504 (now Act 679)
  • Creation of a network of certified academic language therapists to encourage the training of more dyslexia therapists and interventionists under HB1891
  • Allowing schools to provide virtual options permanently under HB1237 (now Act 688)
U.S. Dept. of Education launches national summer learning collaborative
The Collaborative brings together state and local leaders to design summer programs that address learning losses due to the pandemic.

Image: Deseret News
School Choice: Utah taxpayers helping students with disabilities
After a year of remote learning and off-again on-again in- person instruction, parents in Utah and nationwide are reviving their interest in school choice, particularly when it comes to children with disabilities.

North Little Rock Schools start work on virtual-academy plans
"We have heard the virtual option has been great for some of our students," Superintendent Gregory Pilewski said. "As we have to compete with other school districts and school choice, the virtual academy is a great option to provide to parents. I see us expanding this over time."

Image Source: NWA Online
ESTEM to boost pay for teachers
ESTEM Public Charter Schools Inc. announced Tuesday that it will raise the pay of its teachers by more than $3,800 in the 2021-22 school year, making $40,000 the starting salary for first-year teachers with bachelor's degrees.

DESE launches Academy to address critical shortages in SPED
The Arkansas Department of Education’s Division of Elementary and Secondary Education is launching the Special Education
Resource Teacher Academy.

The academy, which utilizes Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, gives licensed public school educators in grades K-12 the opportunity to earn an additional Special Education Resource endorsement and participate in job-embedded professional development while receiving graduate school credit hours - at no cost to them.

Arkansas Succeed Scholarship success stories
"We are so grateful to have the Succeed Scholarship for our daughter Cassidy. She is able to attend our local Catholic high school with all her friends, following in the footsteps of her mother and sister. Cassidy loves being a Belle and was even a manager for the varsity basketball team this season. Without the scholarship, I am not sure we would have been able to give this opportunity to Cass so thank you! - Allan, Succeed Scholarship parent

The legislature established this overwhelming popular program in 2015 without a single dissenting vote.
  • 38 schools across Arkansas participate
  • 665 scholarships have been awarded
  • Scholarship cap for 20-21 is $7,018 per student
  • 97% parent satisfaction rate from survey
We are proud to administer the program for the state with 100% of all state funding going directly to scholarships. All administrative costs of managing the scholarship for the state is paid for through a private philanthropic grant. 

Education bills of interest to our network
  • SB25 - Schools do not have to count a student for the 3% cap of public school choice if a student has gone to the district for preschool.
  • Status: Died upon adjournment
  • HB1464: Provides a mechanism for parents to bring their concerns over instructional material and activities in the classroom to the district/school administration.
  • Status: Signed by the governor; now Act 684
  • HB1610: Requires reporting the use of restraints as a manner of discipline and to require training in disciplinary methods. 
  • Status: Passed out of the Senate and sent to the governor's desk
  • HB1840: Gives income tax credits for donations to a scholarship fund for medical school students
  • Status: Failed in House Revenue & Tax Committee
We are a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring every K-12 student in Arkansas has equal access to a world class education. Our mission is to create a network of parent and community leaders so every policy decision and every conversation about education starts and ends with how it impacts our kids.