LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The omnibus education bill presented late Monday has cleared the Arkansas Senate and is moving to the House.
The Arkansas LEARNS bill includes enlarging the school voucher program, creating strict student-literacy guidelines and significantly raising teacher pay has cleared two hurdles toward becoming Arkansas law. The 144-page bill was introduced late Monday, moved through the committee process and received its final senate vote Thursday afternoon.
The bill passed the senate with 25 yeas, seven nays, two non-voting and one legislator voting present. All Republican senators voted yea except for Sen. Jimmy Hickey Jr. (R-Texarkana), the sole Republican nay vote, and Sen. Bryan King (R-Green Forest), who cast the present vote.
No Democrat senators voted in favor of the bill.
The bill is expected to move through the same process in the House before arriving on Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ desk for signature, making it state law. Sanders has promoted Arkansas LEARNS throughout her campaign and continued to promote it after becoming governor.
The Department of Education projects Arkansas LEARNS to cost $297.5 million in year one, with $150 million being new money. Year two, where the voucher program expands, is projected to cost $343.3 million, with $250 million as new money.
Gov. Sanders issued the following statement after today’s Senate passage: “Arkansas is one step closer to unleashing the most bold, comprehensive, conservative education reform package in the nation with the Arkansas Senate’s passage of my signature Arkansas LEARNS bill today. It will empower parents to choose the best school for their kid, improve childhood literacy, increase teacher pay to one of the highest in the nation, and prepare kids to graduate into high-paying jobs with the skills and training they need to be successful. Thank you to the Arkansas Senate for passing Arkansas LEARNS with resounding support. Let’s get it passed in the House and signed into law, transforming Arkansas education and serving as a blueprint for educational success across the nation.”