House Education

Jan. 31, 2023


Rep Evans: Just to recall kind of the, what we’ve gone through on HB 1156. As you may remember in our meeting on Thursday there was an amendment that was filed that we adopted in Committee. And then we allowed Representative Bentley to present her bill. Since that time, there was an additional amendment on Thursday afternoon that was placed on that.  And all of those amendments have been engrossed in the bill as you’d see on your devices as you was prepping for the meeting today. 


And so, what I need is, I will entertain a motion, we need to expunge the vote by which the amendment was adopted on the bill on Thursday’s meeting. Motion, Representative Wing. Is there any discussion on the motion? Hearing none. We’ll then vote on that motion. All those in favor of expunging the vote by which the amendment was adopted on House Bill 1156, say aye. Opposed nay. Thank you. That vote has been expunged. Representative Bentley, at this time we’ll let you go to the end of the table and close for your bill with the amendments that have been engrossed on 1156.


Rep. Bentley: Good Morning, Chairman and colleagues, thank you so much for your patience on this bill. Think it’s a very important bill and appreciate the members of the community that have helped me with the amendments to make the bill even better. I appreciate the superintendents who worked with me as well on this bill to make it even better. I think we’ve addressed everybody’s concerns. I think it’s a great bill that’s going to help all of our students, not only feel safe, but feel comfortable to be able to use the bathroom that they need to when they go to school. So I think it’s a great bill for our small school districts to not be inundated with unnecessary lawsuits, to allow them to focus on the child’s education. And I think it’s a great bill. I appreciate everyone’s, again, your patience and your time this morning with that. I would love to see a good vote on the bill. Thank you.


Rep Evans: And what is the will of the Committee? Representative Long, you’re recognized.


Rep Long: Motion do pass.


Rep Evans: I have a motion do pass. Any discussion on the motion? Hearing none, what is the will of the Committee? All in favor say aye. Opposed nay. Congratulations, your bill has passed. 


Rep. Bentley: Thank you Chairman. Thank you Committee.


Rep Evans: Representative Bentley, House Bill 1157, since you’re at the end of the table would you like to go ahead and run that?


Rep. Bentley: I would greatly appreciate it, thank you, Chairman. Thank you.


Rep Evans: Great. You are recognized to present House Bill 1157.


Rep. Bentley: Colleagues, I have really taken this session to really work on bills that will help keep our constituents safer. And each year, an average of 40 Arkansans die from drowning. In fact drowning is the number one cause of death for children ages 1-4. The number one leading cause of unintentional death in children 1-4. So this summer I was actually to go to a legislative conference, where I heard from a mother who lost her child at 19 months old. And she started a group called Every Child a Swimmer, and brought some legislation before our Committee that day. And I thought you know, something we could really use in Arkansas. What can we do to decrease the number of drownings in our state? So it’s a very simple bill. This bill would just work with our school districts each year at the end of the school year, either digitally or a hand-out to the students, will let them know what swimming lessons are available in their area. And what’s some good swimming safety, some things for them to bring home, to bring topics of discussion with their parents. I have visited with my superintendents to make sure this is not an undue hardship.


 We will work with the Department of Education where they can have information available from the Department of Health, from Every Child a Swimmer, and things to make it easy for our school districts to be able to fulfill this bill. So, again, it’s a way for us to see – In my own district, I realized, once I got working on this there’s absolutely no place for students in my district to get swimming lessons in the county that I live in. So I’m already working with our state parks there to help bring in some swimming lessons this summer to help get some swimming lessons available. I think it’ll be a way, it’s not a mandatory thing for students, for schools to provide swimming lessons in any way, no. That’s not what this bill does. It just makes us aware of what swimming lessons are available, what some good water safety is available for our students, and just to get the topic of conversation going. I hope to decrease drownings here in our state, to make Arkansas a safer state for our children. With that, it’s a very simple bill, anybody has any questions, I’d be more than happy to entertain some questions from the Committee.


Rep Evans: Representative Garner, you’re recognized for questions.


Rep. Garner: I just have a quick question. What,  who’s responsible to getting that information to the schools?


Rep. Bentley: We are going to work with rules, the Department of Education and make sure the schools. I’m going to help them reach out to some other assets, the Department of Education can reach out to the Department of Health. They’ve already told me there’s plenty of information that they can give to the Department of Education to get to our school districts. And also Casey McGovern with Every Child a Swimmer has been more than happy to work with each one of our school districts to make sure they have the information they need. 


Rep. Garner: To find local swimming lessons?


Rep. Bentley: Mm-hm. Yeah.


Rep. Garner: Right. Thank you.


Rep. Bentley: And also, thank you for bringing that up because Every Child a Swimmer has scholarships available to help get swimming schools started in our state. So to me that’s a real exciting thing, to get more swimming schools going. They’re available, and they’ll be available to each one of our school districts. Because I can get her phone number and email personally to each one of your school districts if you’ve reached out to me for some help.


Rep Evans: Any other questions by the Committee? Representative Walker, you’re recognized.


Rep. Walker: I’ve got a quick question. So I live in a rural area, and I just want to make sure, because looking through the bill I don’t see any leeway in it. What happens if a local area has no local option that result in a certification process?


Rep. Bentley: There’s nothing. There’s no pushback at all. We’re just letting people know that there is none. So maybe it’s people in your community might want to reach out and get one started. But there’s no pushback at the schools, or requirements and they have to, we are just letting them know what’s available. 


Rep. Walker: Okay. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


Rep. Bentley: You’re welcome.


Rep Evans: Any other questions? See none. Oh, I’m sorry. Did I miss someone? You have a motion at the proper time?


Rep. McKenzie: Yes, sir. Can I get a motion do pass.


Rep Evans: Okay, first want to make sure there’s no one signed up to speak for or against. Is there anyone in the audience that would like to speak for or against the bill? Representative Bentley, do you want to close for your bill?


Rep. Bentley: I’m closed for my bill, thank you so much for your time and your patience.


Rep Evans: Representative McKenzie had a motion do pass. Any discussion on the motion? Hearing none. We have a do pass motion on House Bill 1157. All those in favor say aye. Opposed nay. Your bill is passed, congratulations.


Rep. Bentley: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Committee, I appreciate your time.


Rep Evans: Members, Representative Hudson, House Bill 1161, notified me that she would like to pass over this today. Potentially if she can get one issue worked out, going to run that on Thursday. Representative Mayberry, 1185, not heard from her, we’ll pass over that today. Representative Eubanks, 1192, has asked to pass over his bill today. We’ll go to House Bill 1238, Representative Cozart, you’re recognized.

Rep. Cozart: Thank you Mr. Chair. You ready for me to proceed?


Rep Evans: You are recognized to present your bill.


Rep. Cozart: Thank you, sir. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a bill that we run every 2 years after we do our adequacy study. We have a allotment that we need for transportation for schools that do not have enough funding through the transportation funding that we allow them. We have quite a few schools that really run over on their transportation and it takes a lot to buy buses, fuel, and the maintenance for those buses. So quite a few years ago Senator Cheatham and I got together and we worked this up to figure out how to do this. And then there’s a funding mechanism to do this. And a lot of people don’t always agree with it. If you look at your schools, I’m sure y’all have looked through here, and you’ll see some schools that get $0. And the reason for that is they use their transportation but they may not use all of it. Or they use some other type of funding to fund their transportation, which they do not monitor or file it with Ap – I’m not sure that’s not Appscan, what is it – through the –


Rep. Evans: ESchool?


Rep Cozart: Yeah. So they do not get it funded, recognized when they do all their records on it. If they do not use all their transportation funding up, they are not going to get any extra. So a lot of schools have been schooled on that, and so this last time we had a lot of ESSER funds, and rescue funds. And so a lot have used some of that, so it changed a few this time again. And it’ll change next time if we do this again. So it changes every year to do it. I’ve been asked by a couple people why some of that happens.


So, let me, if you have time, I may be the last one today on this. We’ll going to be here until 1:30 then. [laughter] Currently, there’s a fin– I can’t say some of these words too, on certain days, but – there’s a definite amount of Enhanced Transportation funding allowed to assist districts with their transportation costs that exceed the funding the districts receive through the deal. This is what I just told you. For the current school year of 2022-2023, we – there are set apart $2 million allocated for the Enhanced Transportation and the House Education Committee is recommended for this next one, $7.7 million for the 2023-2024 and $8 million for the 2024-2025. So this is what we’re looking at now. District’s allocation for Enhanced Transportation funding are based in part in each district’s projected transportation expenditure needed, determined by needs determined by the following factors. Average daily membership, average daily number of riders, average daily route miles. In addition, the allocations are impacted by the degree of which district’s transportation costs are paid with funds other than Foundation funding. And that’s where they get caught sometimes, by not getting some of this, because they use other funds. The Enhanced Transportation funds such as growth, declining enrollment, and athletic fundings that is available in many districts to meet the transportation funding needs. A district’s transportation funding allocation can grow or decline based on the growth or decline in one or more of the factors listed above. So those numbers, students, funding, route miles, all those things. 

There’s a lot of factors that change this, and I don’t know. Like I said, if you’ve looked at some of your schools, you may have gotten funding. And I have the list for the last, since 2017 when we started this; I’ll go over what it started out. Some of those schools have changed drastically. One way or the other, from $0 to maybe $100,000; or from $100,000 down to $0. So it does change every year. It’s pretty well, stays pretty close but it does change. And some people ask that question, what it is. And I know I had a couple calls on it with concerns. But we’ve always had those concerns over time, and it does fluctuate from year to year. I’d be glad to answer any questions if you have them.


Rep Evans: Members, any questions from the committee? Seeing none. Anyone in the audience that would like to speak for or against the bill? Seeing none. Representative Cozart, would you like to close for your bill?


Rep. Cozart: Yes, I would sir. I think this is a great bill. It’s something that, like I said in 2017, we decided it was something that the – we had a lot of schools, very small schools, that were really struggling with their transportation. And this seemed to be the cure for it. We tried to figure this out in the Matrix but, anybody that’s worked on the Matrix here knows, that if you raise the amount for transportation funding in the Matrix all you’re doing is making the big schools richer and the poorer schools poorer. So it just doesn’t work. This is what we’re trying to do, and we’re going to fix this eventually. We’re working on something right now that will fix this. And hopefully we can get that this session. And I’d appreciate a good vote, and I’d motion do pass.


Rep Evans: As a representative of the Committee, Representative Cozart has provided a motion to do pass on House Bill 1238. All those in favor of the motion say aye. Opposed nay? Congratulations, your bill is passed. That’s all that we have on our agenda for today, Members and colleagues that were ready to run their bills. We have some that should also be coming off of fiscal impact today. So watch your calendars, watch your agendas, for those new items that will be dropping on. And I will be reaching out to each one that has a bill assigned to our Committee to see if they’re ready to run them. Or if not we can drop those down to the deferred list. See no other business before the Committee? Our meeting is adjourned.