Arkansas Republican Gov. Sarah Sanders pushed legislation Monday that would create a universal school choice program by the 2025-2026 school year.
The LEARNS Act, co-sponsored by 25 members of the Senate and 55 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, would create a school choice program that expands each year to make more students eligible, giving vouchers of $7,413 to students outside of the public school system. The 144 page bill would also prohibit lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through fifth grade. (RELATED: Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders Bans The Term ‘Latinx’ From Official Government Use)
“Arkansas made history yesterday with the introduction of Gov. Sanders’ [Arkansas] LEARNS legislation – the biggest, most far-reaching, conservative education reform in America,” Alexa Henning, Sanders’ communications director, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Once the bill passes, minimum teacher pay will go from one of the lowest to one of the highest in the nation, parents will be empowered to choose whatever school is best for their family, and Arkansas students will be put on a pathway to success. The Governor is looking forward to Arkansas LEARNS passing and signing it into law.”
Under the bill, public school teachers would receive a base salary of $50,000, a $14,000 raise from their current salary of $36,000. In the 2023-2024 school year, teachers could receive a salary increase of another $2,000, according to the bill.
The LEARNS Act would additionally remove the cap of school choice transfer students allowed in each school district. In the 2023-2024 school year, vouchers would be able to cover tuition, testing and school supplies while in the 2024-2025 school year, vouchers could be spent on tutoring, course fees and college admission exams.
NEW: SB 294— the anticipated education reform bill has been filed. The proposal, which includes the governor’s agenda on education, is 144 pages. Here is the bill in its entirety: https://t.co/hynPnElIlb #arnews #arpx pic.twitter.com/7ibnWdv9PP
— Marine Glisovic KATV (@KATVMarine) February 20, 2023
Education has been a focus for Sanders, who is prioritizing empowering “parents with more choices” and rewarding “good teachers with smart incentives,” according to Sanders’ education plan. The bill will go before the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.
“Today my education bill – Arkansas LEARNS – will go to the legislature,” Sanders tweeted on Monday. “Every single kid in Arkansas deserves access to a quality education. It’s time to pass the most transformational education reform in America.”
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