Senate Education

Jan. 25, 2023


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Sen English: Good morning I am calling the Senate Education Committee to order. Glad to have everybody here. We have quite an audience today and we are in this room in the Old Supreme Courtroom simply because our room next door has windows being repaired and replaced. So, hopefully those will be done pretty soon and we will be moving back to our regular session. So, let me see, we have a couple of things we need to do here this morning. 

Fiscal impact study rules

One of the things that we have kind of used and done for a long time is we have assumed the rules that there had to be a fiscal impact study done for every K-12 bill. We have done that for years. The reality is the Senate has never had that rule. The House has had that rule, but the Senate hasn’t. So, I have asked Jill to put together an amendment to our rules that we passed last month and so that we could duplicate exactly what the House rules are so that everybody is on the same path. The other thing that is included in these rules is also the lottery scholarship rules that the House adopted, so we need to be able to adopt those as well. So, I know that you haven’t had a chance to look at these rules, but basically what it amounts to is that there will be an impact study, fiscal impact study, done on every K-12 education bill that comes through here, which is already being done. The other is on the lottery scholarship procedures. So– I beg your pardon? 

Sen Chesterfield: To what are you referring when you say the lottery scholarship? 

Sen English: Well there is a whole new process for the lottery scholarship bills that has been established

Sen Chesterfield: By whom? 

Sen English: The House has passed those rules for the lottery scholarship. There is a law that was passed at the last session and the rules have been passed, so it goes through a fiscal impact too. So anybody who has a proposal to do anything with the lottery has to submit that bill by the 8th of February, and then it will go through a fiscal impact to look at what’s the long term of that. 

Sen Chesterfield: May I have a copy of that? 

Sen English: Beg your pardon? 

BLR Staff: The amendment to the city rules is all in the underlined language–

Sen English: Yes. Anything here that is underlined is the language that will be changed. So yes.  Senator Dotson? 

Sen Dotson: Thank you, Madam Chair. So, since the lottery stuff is actually in statute, do we actually have to have a rule in order to– I mean it’s part of state law. 

Sen English: Right, but the House has adopted the rules for that process. The law is there but this is the process.

Sen Dotson: I am not sure just because the House did it we have to follow the House’s leading.  It has been very– I have always envied the Senate that they didn’t have some of this language in their statute or in their rules for this committee. 

Sen English: It just makes it very clear, so if you wanted to do something with the lottery scholarship you would know this is the process you have to follow. It’s the same thing if somebody in the House decided if they wanted to do something that has to do the with the lottery scholarship, then they would have to submit the bill and it would go through a fiscal impact study. The idea is just to make sure that we are not obligating the lottery scholarship to anything that is going to have a long term effect. 

Sen Dotson: So this is amending the rule, so it takes two-thirds of the committee to adopt it? 

Sen English: Yeah. 

Sen Dotson: And then to suspend this rule, if we choose to it is a suspension in the committee once it’s adopted, it would take two-thirds as well? Thank you. 

Sen English: Anybody else have any questions about it? So, could I hear a motion to accept these rules?  Senator Hammer made a motion to accept the rules and Senator Leding seconded the rules. Is there any discussion? 

Sen Chesterfield: I have a question. 

Sen English: Certainly, Senator Chesterfield. 

Sen Chesterfield: Why is the two-thirds necessary to make a change in the lottery scholarship instead of a simple majority? 

Sen English: I don’t know.

Sen Chesterfield: You don’t know. Could we postpone adopting that until we know why it’s such a high threshold and just change–

Sen English: Yes we can take this up next week at our next meeting if you prefer. Would you all like to do that, and then you have a chance to read it and get a better idea of what we are talking about? 

Sen Chesterfield: I appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the committee. 

Sen Hammer: I withdraw my motion. 

Sen English: Yes, thank you. Thank you, Senator Hammer, for withdrawing your motion and Senator Leding for your second. Thank you very much. Okay, so moving right along then. We have a few bills on the agenda today.  The first one is House Bill 1017, and Representative Berry, and I believe that Senator Bryant will do that. 


HB 1017: Allows paid leave for school employees in emergency services

Sen Bryant: Thank you, Madam Chair and committee. This bill is brought by Representative Mark Berry, who is a retired air force general and very familiar with how the state does business in regarding our military operations and our rescue resources and items such as that. This bill specifically addresses the Civil Air Patrol and the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary. I am not sure how many members are aware if they have a CAP system within their local community, but like at our airport we have a very active unit and these are the members of our community, the unpaid members that give up their time, talents, and resources to be able to provide training into the Air Force as cadets and then also give back to our community through STEM programming. They are very active and good for our community. 

What this bill does is allow our school system, in addition to existing language of our cities and our counties, it allows our school system to give paid leave to those members that are requested to be activated in the event of emergency for special training and it’s for up to 15 days per calendar year. So, it authorizes the school district to give them paid leave for them to conduct those missions. If you will recall, I think General Berry in his testimony in saying that when the Arkansas River flooded they had a need for air patrol to go up and look for people that might be stranded, and they utilized Civil Air Patrol volunteers. And if they were in education and had to teach, this law will allow that school district to easily pay them for them to go give up those community hours. 

Sen English: Senator Chesterfield. 

Sen Chesterfield: Thank you and thank you for bringing the bill. I am in favor but I am not sure, is the school district to pick up the costs of the leave? 

Sen Bryant: Yes. What they will do is they will pay for up to 15 days for them to be gone. 

Sen Chesterfield: It will be coming out of the school budget? 

Sen Bryant: Yes. 

Sen Chesterfield: Will they be allocating more money for school budgets for that just in case they need it? 

Sen Bryant: As of now the fiscal impact is up to $1,500 dollars per substitute teacher if they give up all 15 days. 

Sen Chesterfield: Okay. Thank you. 

Sen English: Anybody else have a question? Okay. Is there anybody in the audience who has signed up to speak for or against this bill? I don’t believe so, okay. Alright, let’s see, so are you closed for your bill? 

Sen Bryant: I am closed for the bill. 

Sen English: Okay. Do I hear a motion? 

Sen Bryant: I would like to motion do pass. 

Sen English: Second?  All those in favor?  All opposed?  Thank you very much. You have passed your bill. Okay, our second one up here is by Representative Vaught, House Bill 1122, and who said they were going to— okay, Senator Hammer is going to present that bill. Okay. Go ahead. 

Sen Hammer: Thank you, madam chair, and members of the committee. I bring this bill on behalf of Representative Vaught. I will be the Senate sponsor on it. The bill addresses an issue. Last session we passed a bill regarding the start date of the school year. And what this bill will do is reserve or save a portion of that bill, but it will address a portion that has unintended consequences to it. The bill is pretty self-explanatory in that if you will look at line 27 of page 1: “On or after the Monday of the week in which August 19th falls, not earlier than the 14th of August and not later than the 26th.” So it going to create some flexibility. 

One of the things that was brought to our attention is that the bill as it was passed last time created some hardships on schools because what was happening was they weren’t able to start, therefore they weren’t able to finish their session until after Christmas, which really creates some hardships as far as educational loss for the things coming back. So, what this does is restore that flexibility and it preserves that 4-day flexible option is still in there, and it also preserves that if a school wants to operate based on hours, not on set days, it preserves that and gives the schools latitude. With that, I will be glad to– and this is supported by every educational entity out there that I know of and was actually requested so.

Sen Chesterfield: Motion at the proper time.

Sen Hammer: Thank you. I’ll shut up then. Thank you.

Sen English: Are there any questions from the committee? Senator. 

Sen Chesterfield: I move do pass. 

Sen Dotson: Second. 

Sen English: Senator Chesterfield has moved do pass and Senator Dotson has seconded it. Anybody in favor? Opposed?  Thank you. You have passed your bill. 

Sen Hammer: Thank you, members of the committee and Madam Chair. 

Sen English: Okay. Then Senator Dotson? 

Sen Chesterfield: Motion do pass.


SB 68: Creating Holocaust Education Week for public schools

Sen Dotson: Thank you, Madam Chair and I’ll take that do pass. But, Madam Chair, and members of the Committee, Senate Bill 68 that you have before you here simply expands on something we passed last session, 2 years ago. The Holocaust education component is 6-16-154, and we are adding a section D to that. It is a 2 paragraph bill that is fairly self-explanatory. There is no mandate added to school districts. It is simply to designate Holocaust Education Week as the last full week of January and the mandate I guess is to direct the State Board of Education to inform districts of which week that is and to encourage that and it take place during that week. But it still leaves the flexibility up to the local school districts to decide if that week works for them within their schedule. They do not have to do it during that week, but they can. And I also have somebody here along that would like to make a few comments on it, the bill. 

Sen English: Would you recognize yourself please? 

Ronnell:  Thank you, Madam Chair, and Senator Dotson. My name is Steve Ronnell. I am a Little Rock small businessman and I am here representing the Holocaust Education Living Proposal committee which helped pass the bill that was referenced by Senator Dotson in the last session. As a point of personal privilege, Madam Chair, it is an honor to be testifying before you and your committee today. You and I have been friends of colleagues for 30 years, Madam Chair, and it has been fun watching your career over these decades. 

Sen English: We go back a very long way. We were both very young. 

Ronnell: Yes. You have maintained your youth. I have not. This bill, just to add very briefly what Senator Dotson has explained, the timing of the consideration of this bill today and this week is perfect because if this bill passes into law, and we hope it will, fast forward one year, this will be the last full week of instruction, January 25, will be in the last full week of instruction for all of Arkansas Public Schools, and this will be the first ever Holocaust Education Week designated by the state and by this legislature. And this is not a coincidence that the last full week of instruction of January was chosen as this Friday, January 27, is the 78th anniversary of the U.S. Army and the allied liberation of Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Europe, which exposed to the world the vast atrocities of the Nazi’s killing over 11 million citizens, including 6 million Jews during the Holocaust, and exposing the world to why the greatest generation fought against tyranny and for liberty and justice for all citizens of the world during World War II. January 27 is also the United Nations date designated for international Holocaust Remembrance Day, so it is not only appropriate, it is timely and it is important to designate this week to give guidance to school districts, as Senator Dotson says, not to mandate that the instruction occur during that week, but to provide really an avenue, a platform, and an opportunity for teachers and administrators to be able to teach the Holocaust as required by the law passed in the last legislative session. With that, I will thank the committee, ask for a good vote, and be willing to answer any questions that the committee may have. 

Sen English: Yes, Senator Leding? 

Sen Leding: Thank you, Madam Chair. I do support the bill and plan to vote for it, but wanted to make sure really quick, and forgive my ignorance here, does this in any way conflict with the governors prohibition, the executive order that prevented the teaching of CRT? 

Sen Dotson: Not that I am aware of. 

Sen English: Could you repeat the question?

Sen Leding: Just making sure that the bill doesn’t in any way conflict with the Governor’s executive order banning CRT in K-12 schools? 

Sen Chesterfield: Motion at the proper time. 

Sen English: Are you closed? 

Sen Dotson: Yeah, we are closed for the bill. 

Sen Chesterfield: Move do pass.

Sen English: Do I hear a second?  All in favor? All opposed? Thank you very much. 

Sen Dotson: Thank you, Madam Chair and members. 

Sen English: Ladies and gentlemen, that is all we have on the agenda for today. So, we will see what we have next week for the agenda and we will come back and revisit the rules. So if you all would take a look at those and then we can vote on them next Wednesday. We are adjourned.