America's youngest governor delivers on education

America's youngest governor delivers on education

America's youngest governor delivers on education

Most Arkansans are pleased their governor has signed into law an education overhaul that she considered her priority for this legislative session.

AFN reported in February that the new governor of Arkansas, Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders, had proposed Arkansas LEARNS – an aggressive plan to expand access to high-quality education from birth to 12th grade. On Tuesday this week, the Republican-held Arkansas State Legislature passed the universal school choice legislation (Senate Bill 294) – and the governor signed it on Wednesday.

In a signing ceremony in Little Rock, Sanders stated: "We've seen how the status quo condemns Arkansans to a lifetime of poverty. We're tired of sitting at the bottom of national education rankings."

Burke, Lindsey (Heritage) Burke

"After enduring several tumultuous years of teachers' unions-induced school closures and awakening to the radical content taught in too many schools, parents have had enough. State leaders like Gov. Sanders, and others this year like Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, have recognized parent frustration and fought to make sure all families have high-quality learning options that align with their values.

"2023 may be the year education choice becomes a reality for a majority of students and states finally put government-assigned schooling in the rear-view mirror. Arkansas should be applauded for hastening the education freedom revolution."

Lindsey Burke, Ph.D., director
Center for Education Policy
The Heritage Foundation

Among other things, the new law creates a new school voucher program, eliminates the limit on the number of charter schools allowed to operate, and boosts the minimum base salaries for teachers from $36,000 to $50,000.

Cox, Jerry (Family Council) Cox

AFN spoke with Jerry Cox, founder and president of Little Rock-based Family Council. "The LEARNS Act could provide students in Arkansas with unprecedented access to education," he says. "This good law will make it possible for students to receive a publicly funded education at a public or private school or at home."

Cox explains that the LEARNS Act also prohibits critical race theory in public schools. "It [not only] raises teacher salaries, it protects young elementary school children from inappropriate sexual material," he explains. "A lot of families feel trapped in a deteriorating public school system."

Nicholas Horton of Opportunity Arkansas Foundation also likes the law. "Going forward in Arkansas, every single Arkansas kid is going to have access to a quality education that works best for them, that suits their needs," says Horton.

Horton, Nicholas (Red Truck Strategies) Horton

"No longer are they going to be trapped in a certain school because of a zip code that they happen to live in, and no longer is real school choice going to be limited to just kids that are well-off or that come from well-off families."

Arkansas Democrats do not care for the plan – among them Grant Tennille, chair of the Democratic Party of Arkansas; House Minority Leader Tippi McCullough; and Senate Minority Leader Greg Leding. Still, Cox says this will help Arkansas schools, students, and families.

"The LEARNS Act will improve public schools and empower families to make decisions about how they educate their children," says Cox. "We are grateful to legislators for passing the LEARNS Act, and we applaud Governor Sanders for signing it into law."