Tenth and last in a series of articles intended to make the contents of the Arkansas LEARNS Act accessible to the ordinary reader.
The State Teacher Education Program shall be used to provide limited loan repayment for federal student loans.
Arkansas Teacher Academy Scholarship Program Act. An eligible postsecondary institution shall implement an Arkansas Teacher Academy to incentivize potential and enrolled academy attendees to: (1) Enter the teaching profession; and (2) Commit to teaching in: (A) Arkansas public schools; or (B) Critical shortage areas in Arkansas based on subject.
This section creates the Office of Early Childhood within the Department of Education. The office shall be responsible for all programs funded through state or federal resources that provide early childhood care or educational services.
According the Arkansas Code 9-28-113, state or federal funding shall not be used for the placement of a foster child in a nonpublic school (private, parochial, or home school). This law is waived for a foster child who receives a Succeed scholarship.
This section provides funding for the Child Care Grant Fund created by Section 58.
SECTIONS 60, 61, 62, 63
All have to do with repealing and amending Arkansas Code 19-5-306 in order to accommodate the provisions of Section 58.
This section specifies that criminal history records are to be seen only by ” employees of the Department of Human Services or the Department of Education who have an official business reason to see the information.”
This section is about sharing criminal history records checks for service providers and their employees among different divisions of the Department of Education and the Department of Human Services.
This section establishes a cash fund account to be known as the “Arkansas Child Care Facilities Loan Guarantee Trust Fund.”
Another section on criminal history records. This one establishes rules requirements for checks for (1) An applicant for licensure or exemption from licensure as a service provider (2) An applicant for employment with a service provider; and (3) An employee of a service provider.
This repeals part of Arkansas Code 25-10-102 relating to the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education.
This section also has to do with amending previous laws relating to the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education.
This section repeals another part of the previous code relating to the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education.
The Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education of the Department of Human Services is transferred to the Department of Education
If any provision of this act or the application of this act to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications of this act that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end, the provisions of this act are declared severable.
EMERGENCY CLAUSE This section asserts that the changes mandated by the Act are so urgent as to constitute an emergency. It acknowledges that the previous amendments “are extensive and will require new rules and procedures to be developed to implement the changes.” For that reason, the section declares an emergency in that “this act [is] immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health, and safety [and] shall become effective on the date of its approval by the Governor.”
Sections 56 seems to be a good idea, offering student loan repayment help to teachers.
Section 57 seems to be another good thing for teachers. The Arkansas Teacher Academies “provide current licensed Arkansas public school educators a way to add endorsements to their license and currently employed PreK staff applicants that meet specific requirements to earn a first-time PreK license. All academies offer graduate credit hours and are available at no cost to the participants.”
Section 59 creates an override for the existing state law that forbids tax money to be used for private school tuition. To me, that’s the thin edge of the wedge. Indeed, the entire LEARNS Act seeks to funnel tax money out of the public school system and into private concerns.
Sections 64, 65 and 67 have to do with the use and sharing of criminal history records. It seems odd that, as they are on the same subject, they are not presented consecutively. The entire Act seems to have been thrown together in this less than organized way.
Most of the remaining sections have to do with the effects of Section 58, the creation of the Office of Early Childhood within the Department of Education.
Sections 60, 61, 62, 69, and 68 all have to do with amending and repealing existing laws to accommodate new ones relating to Early Childhood Education and Child Care.
Section 63 is especially complicated. It goes into great detail about how voucher money will be moved around.
I cannot claim to have made sense of these sections. I can only refer readers to the text of the Act.
Sections 72 and 73 seem to be intended to (1) rush the LEARNS Act through the legislature in time for the 2023-2024 school year and (2) make allowances for the possibility that some of the repeals and amendments to previous laws may prove invalid.