Fifth in a series of articles intended to make the contents of the Arkansas LEARNS Act accessible to the ordinary reader.
Sections 22 to 26 of the Arkansas LEARNS Act relate to “the rescission” of employees. [termination of contract]
rescission: the revocation, cancellation, or repeal of a law, order, or agreement.
Most of the approximately 1,500 words in these sections describe and redescribe the offenses for which public school staff may be terminated. Offenses must be reported within 24 hours of observation. Failure to report an offense is punishable.
Teachers who wish to resign have 30 days from the end of the previous contract to submit a letter of resignation
The superintendent of each school district or open-enrollment public charter school shall report to the state board the name of any person holding a license issued by the state board who is guilty of or under investigation for a felony or misdemeanor or any other offense, such as obtaining a teaching license by fraudulent means.
Mandatory reporting of disqualifying offenses is extended to the superintendent or director of “an educational entity or a third-party vendor.”
Defines educator as
(A) A person holding a valid Arkansas standard teaching license, ancillary license, provisional license, technical permit, or administrator’s license issued by the State Board of Education;
(B) A preservice teacher;
(C) An individual employed under a waiver from licensure as a teacher of record or as an administrator; or
(D) A person employed under an emergency teaching permit; or
(E) A person who is a registered volunteer who will be working with students in an athletic coaching capacity or is in the process of obtaining a coaching certificate through the Arkansas Activities Association and is assisting with students in a coaching capacity in a public school athletic program.
This section contains more definitions.
“Student” means a person who is enrolled in a public or private school in any level from prekindergarten through grade twelve.
“Substantiated allegation” means observance of or reasonable cause to believe that a violation of the code of ethics has occurred.
Sections 27 to 29 relate to the Right to Read Act.
The Arkansas Right to Read Act (6-17-429) sets out the required knowledge and skills reading teachers will be expected to possess “no later than 2023.”
This section mandates that schools must notify parents if the school is not using a curriculum program that is on the approved list of reading programs.
This section warns state-approved educator preparation programs [teacher training] that providers of programs that do not teach the required knowledge and skills will be penalized.
Sections 22-26: There isn’t much to say about the rescission sections. The offenses enumerated are bad. School staff need to be aware of what’s going on and report ethics violations as soon as possible. Staff who violate acceptable behavior or who are found to have committed felonies or misdemeanors are to be removed from school-related employment.
Section 27: This mandate, enjoining schools to notify parents if they are not using one of the 33 approved programs, seems to me to be added for purely political reasons.
The Department of Education can certainly be expected to monitor the state’s 259 school districts to ascertain compliance. No need to suggest that parents must be alert to the possibility that unscrupulous school superintendents may refuse to utilize the approved programs.
This amendment reflects the so-called “parental empowerment” movement that cloaks so many anti-public school laws. Not only in Arkansas, state legislators and special interest groups work to convince parents that they are being victimized by a system that ignores their right to control their children’s education.
What utter nonsense.
PARENTS ARE ALREADY EMPOWERED
- They have specific rights in regard to public schools.
- They have total control over what their children learn for five or six years before they ever set foot in a school classroom. (Yes, the reading instruction promoted by the teachers’ colleges for the past fifty years is abysmally ineffective. But millions of the children who enter school at the age of five or six lack the verbal experience that makes reading make sense.)
- They have the option to educate their children privately. (They do not, however, have the right to expect tax money collected to support public schools to be used to fund private education.)
Section 29: This section, also on the topic of reading and literacy, is nearly 3,000 words long. It will need a post to itself to do it justice. The sixth installment of this translation of the LEARNS Act will examine it.