Jan 12, 2023 - Politics

Arkansas Gov. Sanders makes education moves

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former White House press secretary, speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference

New Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2021. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

On her second day in office, Sarah Huckabee Sanders went all in on schools.

  • Arkansas' new governor signed an executive order to evaluate the state's education system.
  • The order seeks to prioritize literacy, empowerment, accountability, readiness, networking and school safety — altogether dubbed LEARNS.

Context: Sanders called education her top priority throughout her campaign, noting that about 31% of the state's third graders are reading at or above their grade level.

Some highlights from Sanders' day two order include:

  • Prioritizing the use of federal and state funds to expand access to quality early education for at-risk children;
  • Encouraging businesses to expand early childhood centers for working families;
  • Streamlining processes to expand charter schools;
  • Reviewing educator preparation and licensure requirements;
  • Conducting annual audits of Arkansas' career pathways;
  • Supporting the Department of Commerce's efforts to expand broadband statewide;
  • Reviewing and updating school and district measurement systems to ensure they incorporate rigorous academic outcomes, annual student progress and workforce preparedness;
  • Ensuring districts have school safety oversight and increasing trained law enforcement and school security officers on campuses;
  • Launching a review process for recommendations in the 2022 Arkansas School Safety Commission final report and proposing regulations to the state Board of Education.

Some of the issues the state will review, most within the next 90 days:

  • Kindergarten readiness;
  • Arkansas' educator workforce, including an analysis of the teacher shortage, pipeline and retention metrics;
  • Implementation of the Arkansas Right to Read Act;
  • Transparency on classroom curriculum, required-reading materials and books, and classroom assessments;
  • A review of all federal stimulus dollars to understand how and where districts have spent elementary and secondary school emergency relief funds, as well as a full accounting of any outstanding funds;
  • A review of Arkansas's school safety laws.

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