LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Lawmakers plan to pass an all-encompassing education reform bill during this general session.
This week, several bills impacting education are being discussed, including one that would clarify Arkansas law to require public school districts to admit foreign exchange students utilizing reputable agencies.
State Rep. Stephen Meeks (R) sponsored the bill and said some districts have either refused to accept students or dictated how many/who they could accept. Meeks said this should not be allowed under Arkansas law, referencing opinions from the attorney general’s office and courts.
“It’s just a clarifying law,” Meeks said.
The bill would essentially prevent districts from turning away exchange students brought in through reputable agencies. Experts said this happens more often than one would imagine.
“The students will come and sometimes have issues,” Amanda Sharp, a Local Coordinator for Education Travel & Culture, a nonprofit group said.
Sharp is a longtime host herself. She said making this a law would be an international boost for Arkansas.
“Ten, 15 years down the line, we’re going to have a lot of great moments of culture,” Sharp said.
Lawmakers had many questions, including whether the bill could clarify that the students would not receive English as Language Learner services.
Meeks announced he would tweak some parts of the bill and present it again after some changes are made.
“Let’s see if we can make a good bill even better for our school districts,” Meeks said.
Candela Vazquez is from Spain and is a foreign exchange student in Arkansas. She said some of her friends back home are interested in coming to Arkansas, and this law could help that happen.
“I have so many things to tell them, to my parents, to my family, to my friends about such an amazing year I’m having here,” Vazquez said.