LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – In just over a week, the 145-page omnibus package Arkansas LEARNS was filed, passed through the state senate, and sent to the house.
Now, a series of Arkansas leaders are asking lawmakers to hit the brakes, putting a pause on this legislation so more research can be done and everyone can be brought to the table.
Monday afternoon, representatives from the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, Arkansas Education Association, Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families, and Disability Rights Arkansas sent their concerns and suggestions to legislators.
Within the written comments are worries about the lack of support for students with disabilities, the dismantling of the state’s public school system, and school choice vouchers – which leaders say would create a tiered education system in rural areas with a lack of choice.
Bill Kopsky, executive director of the Arkansas Public Policy Panel, said during remarks research shows the bill will do more harm than good and called it a measure being sold as something other than what it truly is.
“We think what this bill really is is a school privatization bill and we should just call it that,” Kopsky said, “and we should peel out the parts around public education and run a separate….improving public education bill.”
He added, “we read the bill as actually not having much to do with public education other than dismantling an awful lot of it in the form of vouchers and a massive expansion of charter schools we haven’t talked enough about.”
Additional suggestions included more support for early childhood education, a better outline for the long-term cost of the plan, and to include the voices of teachers, students and parents – not just lawmakers.
Everyone Monday said there are parts of this bill they do support; they just wish it could be broken up into smaller bills and more public input be included before it’s passed.
It next appears in the house education committee.