LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ landmark education reform legislation passed the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, marking the first step to what many lawmakers think will be its ultimate passage to become law.
“Arkansas LEARNS” is sponsored by State Sen. Breanne Davis, who joined Education Secretary Dr. Jacob Oliva in answering questions from lawmakers and members of the public.
“We’ve been taking hundreds of comments and edits, and we have been amending the bill as we go, before it was even filed,” Davis said.
Lawmakers from both major parties said they appreciate certain aspects of the bill, but Democratic legislators said there are certain elements they could never support.
The bill would provide an increased minimum teacher salary, salary increases for teachers and staff, early childhood learning programs and a school choice account, which is considered the most controversial part.
“I think it says a lot about the fact that Republicans haven’t successfully passed a voucher program despite having a majority for years now up until this point,” State Sen. Greg Leding said. “It looks like they’re going to, but they’ve had to pack the legislation with all this other good stuff in order to win support.”
The meeting started at 9 a.m. and took a break for session shortly after 12:30 p.m. It resumed in the afternoon before the passing vote at around 4:30 p.m.
“When I go through this bill with people, and they get an understanding of what it is and what it means, they’re good with the bill,” Davis said. “There’s just this time where people are reading through the language and understanding what the bill says.”
The bill will now go before the full Senate with a possible vote Thursday.