Eighth in a series of articles intended to make the contents of the Arkansas LEARNS Act accessible to the ordinary reader.
This section amends 6-18-227, which sets out rules for the Arkansas Opportunity public School Choice Act. The amendment permits the state board “to adopt any rules necessary for the implementation of this section” as long as they do not contradict a desegregation plan.
This section has to do with the transfer of students from one district to another, again, as long as a transfer does not go against an existing desegregation plan.
School counselors must receive Youth Mental Health First Aid training every four years.
This section lays out rules for the awarding of state tax credit contributions to the *Philanthropic Investment in Arkansas Kids Program Act.
* Under this act, individuals or businesses that pay income taxes in Arkansas can claim a state tax credit for up to 100% of their annual income tax liability by donating to scholarship granting organizations. The money is used to fund scholarships for K-12 students to attend private schools.
This section relates to the Arkansas Children’s Educational Freedom Account Program. Various terms relating to the disposal of funds are defined.
NOTE: This money to support this Account Program is targeted to private schools.
account: an account that is comprised of funds deposited on behalf of a participating student to pay for qualifying educational expenses
account funds: the funds deposited into an account on behalf of a participating student;
curriculum: a complete course of study for a particular content area or grade level
eligible student: a resident of the State of Arkansas who is eligible to enroll in a public elementary or secondary school,
full academic curriculum: all required core courses, or the equivalent, as are offered in traditional public schools
full academic year: 178 days of instruction or the equivalent number of hours
parent: A biological or adoptive parent; legal guardian or custodian; person standing in loco parentis; another person with legal authority to act on behalf of an eligible student
participating school: a private elementary school or private secondary school
participating service provider: a person or an entity, including a participating public or private school, that receives payments from program accounts to provide goods and services that are covered as qualifying expenses.
*qualifying expenses: tuition; fees; testing; school uniform; equipment; access to technology; school services; instructional materials required for either in person or virtual instruction provided by a participating service provider; instructional or tutoring services; supplemental materials or supplies required by a course of study for a particular content area.
*Also included: additional qualifying expenses related to transportation, special courses, and “educational services” proved by “participating service providers.”
This section enlarges the powers of the Commissioner of education to deal with school districts in fiscal distress.
This section describes the Transportation Modernization Grant Program. Private schools can apply for public funds to provide transportation.
Steps the Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation may take when a public school district is classified as being in facilities distress.
This section deals with background checks for volunteers.
The application for a charter school “may be reviewed and approved by the local school district board of directors of the public school district ” in which the charter school will operate. If the board disapproves, “the applicant shall have an immediate right to proceed with a written notice of appeal.”
Discusses caps on the number of charter schools to be allowed in the state.
After the initial five-year period of an open-enrollment public charter, the authorizer may renew the open-enrollment public charter on a one-year or multi-year basis, not to exceed twenty years. After the initial five-year period, the Board of Education shall create an expedited renewal process for charter schools that receive an above-average rating on the Arkansas school rating system.
I’ll admit to having had difficulty following the convoluted legal language in which these sections are couched.
It’s my impression that numerous existing laws are being “amended” to allow more flexibility in making exceptions for running the charter school programs.
Section 47 allows that local public school boards may disapprove of the establishment of a charter school in their district, but their wishes can be overruled by state authorities.
Section 48 suggests that the number of charter schools will be limited, but allows for the “cap” to be raised each year.
Calling these schools “open-enrollment public charter schools” seeks to establish the false impression that they are—in the sense of access—the equivalent of public schools.
They are not.