Apr 17, 2024 - News

Proposed amendment seeks changes to Arkansas education laws

Illustration of an unbalanced scale balanced on top of a pencil.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The group For AR Kids is collecting signatures for an amendment that would require identical academic and accreditation standards for any school that receives state or local money.

State of play: If voters approve it, the Arkansas Educational Rights Amendment of 2024 would deny state or local money to any nonpublic school that fails to meet the same academic standards, standards for accreditation or assessment requirements as public schools.

Between the lines: The LEARNS Act of 2022 includes phasing in a voucher system that will allow all parents to apply to use state funds to the school of their choice, including private schools and home-schooling programs.

Other key aspects of the amendment include:

  • Establishing state-funded, voluntary childhood education — as well as after-school and summer programs — for all kids, starting at age 3.
  • Requiring the state to help children who are within 200% of the federal poverty line and to cover services that "fully meet the individualized needs of students with disabilities to allow them meaningful access to integrated education."

What it means: The amendment defines "adequate education" as all children developing sufficient:

  • Oral and written communication skills.
  • Knowledge of economic, social and political systems.
  • Understanding of governmental processes.
  • Self-knowledge and knowledge of their mental and physical wellness.
  • Grounding in the arts.
  • Training or preparation for advanced training in academic or vocational fields.
  • Academic or vocational skills to enable public-school students to compete favorably with their counterparts in surrounding states — in academics or in the job market.

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