What will happen to education in Arkansas? Gov. Sarah Sanders signs controversial education bill
The LEARNS Act addresses current issues such as critical race theory, and broader ones such as raising teachers pay.
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Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed into law on Wednesday the Senate bill 294 — also known as LEARNS Act — aiming to promote deep changes in the state education system.
The bill is 144 pages long and contains many complex details. Arkansas Advocate highlighted the details of the major parts of the act and AL DÍA selected below some of them:
TEACHERS PAY AND BENEFITS:
- Raises the state’s minimum teacher salary from $36,000 to $50,000;
- Removes the state’s minimum salary schedule for teachers with more education and experience — but encourages districts to set their own salary schedules;
- Repeals incentives for teacher recruitment in high priority districts;
CRITICAL RACE THEORY/LGBT+ PROHIBITION:
- Bans the teaching, and classroom instruction of the topics of Critical Race Theory. According to 5 News, the bill claims that Critical Race Theory is in conflict with the Civil Rights Act of 1964's statement that nobody can be discriminated against based on “color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal state or law.”
- Before 5th grade, teachers shall not provide instruction on sexually explicit materials, sexual reproduction, sexual intercourse, gender identity or sexual orientation;
CHILDREN’S EDUCATIONAL FREEDOM ACCOUNT PROGRAM:
- Voucher that provides up to 90% of the annual per-student public school funding rate for use on allowable education expenses, including private-school tuition;
- Eligible students in the 2023-2024 school year: students with disabilities or experiencing homelessness, foster children, children of active duty military members, students enrolled in an “F”-rated school or school in need of Level 5 support, and students enrolling in kindergarten for the first time;
Democrats in Arkansas urged for the process of signing the bill to be slower — as there are some controversial topics in it that need more discussion. They also worry about the impacts of its implementation.
Arkansas is the latest of the Republican-led states to pass expansive school choice legislation, according to Fox News.
Besides the topics mentioned above, the bill also includes new regulations for graduation requirements, annual student testing, schools safety and more. You can read the full act here.
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