EDUCATION K-12 FUNDING
The General Assembly increased the funding for K-12 education from $6,584/per student to $6,713/per student for the next school year.
Act 246 increases the minimum amount a school district can pay a teacher. This legislation increases the minimum amount by $400 for the next school year. School districts can pay more but not less than the minimum amount set by the state. The minimum starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree would be $31,400 a year and for a new teacher with a master’s degree the minimum starting salary would be $36,050. In school year 2018-2019 the minimums will be $31,800 and $36,450.
Act 666 allows teachers to take a tax deduction for out of pocket expenses for the classroom. A teacher can take a $250 deduction for buying materials, including books, school supplies and even food or clothing for his or her students.
Act 427 requires that any increase in professional development funding each school year be used for professional learning communities.
Act 173 allows a student who attends a private school or home school to enroll in an academic course within their public school district. The public school district that enrolls a private school or home school student would be entitled to 1/6 of the state foundation funding amount for each course.
Act 453 allows home school students to participate in interscholastic activities such as athletics and arts in a private school if the student lives within 25 miles of the school and meets certain academic criteria.
Act 542 gives existing charter schools the first option to buy or lease an unused public school facility.
Act 478 requires students to pass the civics portion of the naturalization test, used by immigration services, before they can receive their high school diploma. The bill would require the student to answer at least 60 of the 100 questions correctly. It allows the students to take the test as many times as needed.
Act 480 requires the Department of Career Education and the Department of Education to write standards for a curriculum to teach students skills such as how to create a household budget, credit management, retirement planning, resume building, and interview skills.
The legislation requires the classes to be taught to students before graduation.
Act 561 instructs the Department of Education to update resources for the teaching of historical contributions by African Americans with an emphasis on American civil rights leaders. It also instructs the department to develop teaching materials relating to Arkansas and the American Civil War. This legislation also eliminates the dual joint holiday commemorating Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King. Robert E. Lee will be commemorated on the second Saturday in October.
Act 509 would allow a school district to join with cities, counties, vocational-technical schools, and even neighboring school districts to create workforce development centers. These centers would provide students, who may not want to pursue a degree, an opportunity to learn a technical skill such as welding.
The sponsor of the legislation explained that many school districts cannot afford the state of the art equipment and facilities that are now needed to provide proper training. This would allow cities and counties to work together with the schools to develop new funding sources.
Act 398 allows images gathered from an automated school bus camera to be used in court. This technology could be used to investigate cases of drivers passing a stopped school bus.
Act 375 directs school district administration officials to calculate the cost of placing seatbelts on new school buses if 10% of individuals within the district sign a petition. This would then allow voters to decide if they want to pursue installing the seat belts at the next school board election. This bill is in the process of having amendments approved and should be to the Governor’s desk next week.
Act 445 which provides more money to several school districts in the state for transportation.
Act 416 requires anyone who applies for a K-6 teaching license or a special education K-12 license to receive training and pass a test on the science of reading. This legislation is designed to improve the ways schools teach students to read. Currently, 63% of Arkansas third graders are not reading at grade level. This bill has passed both chambers but now in the process of amendment approval back in the Senate.
Act 709 establishes a loan program to help increase the number of teachers in teacher shortage areas. Students would be eligible for a $5,000 loan their junior and senior year if they agree to teach the next 5 years in an area of the state with a teacher shortage. The state would repay 20% of the loan each year for the next 5 years providing they are teaching in the needed district. Currently, the program is not funded. The bill sets up the structure for the program for the day funding becomes available.
Act 379 requires public school and open-enrollment charter schools to post the child abuse hotline number.