FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, March 7, 2023
LEARNS Act Will Put Arkansas Among
National Leaders in Education
LITTLE ROCK – This afternoon, the Senate voted 26 to 8 to pass SB294 as amended by the House of Representatives last week. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders to create the LEARNS Act, putting Arkansas education on the path to a positive transformation.
“For far too long, Arkansas has languished at the bottom of national education rankings, but that begins to change today,” said Laurie Lee, chairman of The Reform Alliance. “This expansive investment in education to enact the bold vision of Gov. Sanders will be a turning point for our state, and I would hope to see it embraced.”
The LEARNS Act projects $300 million invested in education, nearly two-thirds of that into raises for public school teacher salaries.
“Few things can impact a child’s education more than their teacher, and with the vast majority of Arkansas students attending local public schools, a fact that is unlikely to change even with LEARNS in place, we need our teachers compensated with a salary and benefits that identify them as the highly sought-after professionals they are.”
The legislation also invests nearly $50 million in Educational Freedom Accounts, which allow families whose children are currently struggling in their zoned public school to purchase the educational services they need, from tuition and fees to curriculum and technology.
“The measures in LEARNS strike a good balance, giving parents agency in directing their child’s education but without writing a blank check, meaning funds must be spent on approved educational services and will go directly to those service providers,” said Lee. “Meanwhile, those providers, including the schools who accept funding, must be able to show that a child is learning and growing in order to keep receiving it.”
The law also enacts sweeping systemic changes throughout the Arkansas educational system by consolidating early childhood learning under the Department of Education, creating a focus on literacy in early grades, and creating a pathway to different diploma tracks in high school, including those intended for students headed directly into the workforce.
“This is a historic day for our state,” said Lee. “All differences of opinion aside when it comes to policy, all seem to agree that the status quo has not been working, that our kids deserve better. This is our chance to deliver for them. LEARNS delivers on policies that even opponents said they supported. This sets us on a new path, and I believe if we work together that path will lead Arkansas schools to be among the best in the country.”
The Reform Alliance is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring every Arkansas student has equal access to a quality education. We understand that each child has individual needs, so we strive to raise public awareness of all educational options for every family. Our team is committed to assisting Arkansas families with finding the best option for their child. In addition, we are proud to partner with the Arkansas Department of Education to promote and assist in the implementation of the Succeed Scholarship Program.