Arkansas Senate Passes Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ Massive Education Reform Bill

The Republican-led Arkansas Senate Thursday passed Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ (R) Arkansas LEARNS Act, a comprehensive education reform plan that seeks to eliminate Critical Race Theory (CRT) in classrooms, increase the salaries of teachers, and broaden school choice in order to “empower parents.”

“We are one step closer to unleashing the boldest, most comprehensive, conservative education reform package in the nation — a blueprint for success for the rest of the country,” Huckabee Sanders tweeted.

“I know from experience that having your child in the right school can not only be life-changing, but lifesaving,” the governor also tweeted Friday. “No one knows better than a parent what their kid needs to succeed — that’s why we will empower parents NOT government to choose the right school for their family.”

Taking an aggressive stance, Huckabee Sanders also reacted to Austin Bailey’s piece in the Arkansas Times with a headline that read, “Universal School Voucher Bill Steamrolls Through Arkansas Senate at Mach Speed, Knocking Opponents Flat.”

“We are not messing around in Arkansas,” the governor said. “Every kid will have access to quality education whether the left likes it or not.”

Contrary to the narrative of national teachers’ unions and other left-wing proponents of the status quo of government schools, the governor’s office states the Arkansas LEARNS Act, which establishes Educational Freedom Accounts for families, will not “hurt public education and close rural schools.”

The governor’s office explains:

Actually, the opposite is true. Research shows that Educational Freedom Accounts lead to better outcomes in traditional public schools. That’s because they empower parents of all incomes to customize their child’s education; if the local school district is the best option, it won’t lose any kids. Data from other states show that the large majority of families, when given the choice, continue to send their kids to traditional public schools and charter schools – but families deserve to have that choice.

“Here in Arkansas, it’s not school choice; it’s parental empowerment,” Huckabee Sanders’ office states. “Ultimately, parents make the best decisions for their child and know when a school is right or wrong. Often that means sending kids to their local school district, but a child’s ZIP code shouldn’t be the only thing determining the type of education they receive.”

Nevertheless, the governor’s office adds that private schools and students who opt into the program “will be held accountable and required to participate in year-end assessments, just like students in traditional public schools.”

The LEARNS Act also seeks to rid Arkansas public schools of CRT. Huckabee Sanders previously signed an executive order directing the secretary of education to evaluate materials from the Biden Department of Education “to ensure Washington bureaucrats can’t bully Arkansas schools into teaching racist indoctrination.”

The legislation also seeks to raise the base salary for teachers from $36,000 to $50,000 – one of the highest in the nation.

The Arkansas LEARNS Act would also prohibit instruction on issues that involve sexually explicit materials, and other topics of sexuality, including reproduction, intercourse, gender identity, and sexual orientation, in public school classrooms prior to the fifth grade.

In response to the criticism that the LEARNS Act “mimics Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill’ – the left’s mocking moniker for the Sunshine State’s Parental Empowerment in Education Act, Huckabee Sanders’ office states, “Most Americans agree that young children shouldn’t be exposed to obscene sexual content in the classroom.”

“Clearly, you haven’t read Florida’s bill, and you have not read this one,” the response adds. “This bill isn’t radical or discriminatory – it’s about protecting kids.”

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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Sarah Huckabee Sanders” by Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Background Photo “Classroom” by Ivan Aleksic.


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