LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ omnibus education reform bill will be signed Wednesday after the Senate passed an amended version Tuesday afternoon. This was the final step in the legislature.
The bill brings a $50,000 minimum starting teacher salary to Arkansas, placing it in the top three in the nation. It also adds pay raises for veteran teachers and other staff along with money for mental health resources and early childhood education. Controversial parts include the “Education Freedom Accounts” for school choice and the removal of the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act.
Several Democratic lawmakers spoke against the bill after the amendment was approved, including State Sen. Fred Love, who said past history involving school vouchers led to a dark period in Arkansas. He said they were used after schools integrated as a way to segregate classrooms.
“This bill has us headed in the wrong direction,” Love said. “For that, I am voting no.”
Love was one of eight senators to vote against the bill. The 26 who voted for it allowed it to pass.
“We expect to see real change real fast,” State Sen. Bart Hester said.
Hester said he was not surprised to see interest in this legislative push from across the state, including heated committee meetings and protests. He said this is because many people care about education.
“We’re 49th in education, and that was kind of the impetus of this whole bill,” Hester said.
In a statement, Sanders confirmed she would sign the bill Wednesday at noon.