Curriculum, News

The Arkansas LEARNS Act- What is it and how can schools prepare?



Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed Senate Bill 294, also known as the LEARNS Act, into law on March 8, which includes several significant changes to the education system in Arkansas and its impact on students, parents, and teachers. The LEARNS Act is a comprehensive education reform package that emphasizes teacher salaries, incentives, and new opportunities for student education. It also includes a private school education voucher program and an executive order on Critical Race Theory.

Key Points of the Arkansas LEARNS Act:

The Arkansas LEARNS Act includes several comprehensive changes in the education system in the state. Below are some of the key points:

  1. Teacher Salaries and Incentives:

The LEARNS Act increases the minimum salaries for new teachers to $50,000 per year, with veteran teachers receiving $2,000 raises. It also provides incentives of up to $10,000 for educators who demonstrate excellence in their profession.

  1. Private School Education Voucher Program:

The LEARNS Act introduced a phased-in universal state-funded private school education voucher program dubbed Educational Freedom Accounts (EFAs). The voucher program gives every Arkansas student the opportunity to attend the school of their choice regardless of the zip code they live in or their family income levels.

Under the EFA program, students receive an account that they can use for private school tuition, supplemental education services, transportation, and other educational expenses.

The voucher program implementation is tiered over three years, beginning with the 2023-2024 school year. In the first year, only students from low-income households will be eligible to take part in the program; the second year will see the program expanded to moderate-income students, and in the third year, all Arkansas students will have access to the EFA program.

  1. Partnership between Traditional School Districts and Charter Schools:

The LEARNS Act encourages traditional school districts and open-enrollment charter schools to form partnerships and work together to provide innovative educational opportunities. This will benefit students, parents, and teachers with diverse education options, such as online courses, after-school programs, and summer school programs.

  1. Repeal of Teacher Fair Dismissal and School Employees Fair Hearing Acts:

The LEARNS Act repeals teacher fair dismissal and school employees’ fair hearing rights, a move that drew criticisms from educators and teacher associations. The new law gives school districts more authority in dismissing teachers without having to undergo lengthy arbitration or legal procedures.

  1. Literacy Standards and Career-Ready Pathways:

The LEARNS Act sets higher standards for student literacy and requires all high schools to offer career-ready pathway programs to help students prepare for their future professions.

  1. Executive Order on Critical Race Theory:

The LEARNS Act codifies Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ executive order that bans Critical Race Theory in schools in the state. The law prohibits government employees and contractors from promoting Critical Race Theory or using taxpayer dollars to fund CRT training sessions.

Higher Literacy Standards

The LEARNS Act is bringing a new level of focus to literacy in Arkansas. With stricter reading requirements for students, this bill is taking a bold step in ensuring that all children are equipped with the necessary skills to succeed academically. In addition to literacy coaches, the bill also provides families with grants to hire tutors who can work one-on-one with students to improve their reading abilities. By investing in the development of our children’s literacy skills, Arkansas is setting our students up for success both in and out of the classroom.

Career-Ready Pathways

High school students now have more options than ever before when it comes to earning their high school diploma. In addition to traditional coursework, students can now choose a career-ready pathway that prepares them for a career that doesn’t require a college degree. This could mean taking classes in auto mechanics or agriculture, two fields with a high demand for skilled workers. With this option, students can graduate with not only a diploma but also the skills needed to succeed in the workforce. It’s an exciting opportunity for young people to explore career paths that they may have never considered before.

The Arkansas LEARNS Act is a substantial change in the education system in Arkansas and promises to make significant progress in improving teacher salaries and enhancing educational opportunities for students and their families. However, it also faces criticism and concerns from educators and school associations, particularly in regard to the voucher program and removing teacher protections.

As with any significant reform, only time will tell the long-term impact of the Arkansas LEARNS Act. In the meantime, families and schools can start preparing to take advantage of the new opportunities that this law brings.

How can Progress Learning Support Schools

Progress Learning can support the LEARNS Act by providing quality tools to help students improve their literacy skills and succeed academically, no matter what setting they are in. With Progress Learning’s adaptive intervention platform, we can help our young learners identify areas of need and work towards improving their reading abilities. No two students learn the same way, and this platform takes that into account by personalizing content and feedback. By using cutting-edge technology to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses, students can receive the help they need to gain confidence and excel in their schoolwork. At Progress Learning, we believe in supporting the whole student. That means offering a wealth of subjects to help students build a well-rounded education and prepare them for their college or career journey ahead. We understand that it takes more than just academic achievement to succeed, which is why we focus on developing the whole person. Our approach is student-centered, providing students with the necessary tools and resources to thrive in any future endeavors. Whether students are interested in pursuing higher education or jumping straight into the workforce, Progress Learning has them covered.
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