PLUMERVILLE, Ark. – The passage of Arkansas LEARNS caused many to wonder what will happen when the legislation is put into practice. Now, the state is trying to put some of those concerns to rest.
Arkansas Education Secretary Jacob Oliva was in Plumerville Thursday morning for a meeting with superintendents, answering questions they had about the plan and figuring out how they can work together to improve schools.
Oliva said many of the questions he heard from educators had to do with details of the plan: from new standards to assessments and teaching materials.
“A lot of those questions are nuanced in detail and some of those details will be ironed out through the rule-making process,” Oliva said.
Some of the more outspoken concerns across the state have to do with how those mandatory teacher pay increases will play out at the district level and if the burden will fall on schools.
Oliva said the raises will be fully covered by the state.
“Once were able to explain that the legislature has gone through the process of determining the foundation funding and the matrix funding that they are accustomed to receiving and all of the dollars to implement the salary increases is coming from a separate category in the state budget, it’s definitely put a lot of minds at ease,” Oliva said.
He also addressed concerns that the school choice voucher system would damage the public school system, saying by investing in talented and skilled teachers, everyone benefits.
“The learns bill is the single largest investment in public education in the history of the state of Arkansas,” Oliva said, “and when you look at what this bill does, it is giving districts, including even smaller rural districts, the ability to recruit, retain, and recognize teachers by raising minimum salaries to at least $50,000.”
In addition to this meeting, Oliva will meet with all 15 educational cooperatives across the state to iron out details of the LEARNS plan with superintendents and will host 6 working groups to help in the rule-making process.