2019 Arkansas State Legislature Bills to watch in the 92nd General Assembly

Jan 14, 2019


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Jan 11, 2019

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State Board Attacks the Teacher Fair Dismissal & Employee Fair Hearing Acts   

Dec 21, 2018

The Arkansas Education Association is deeply concerned by the actions of the State Board of Education to strip educators in the Pine Bluff and Little Rock School Districts of their due process rights. 

At a special board meeting on December 20, the board voted 8-1 to use the powers granted in Act 930 of 2017 to waive the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act and the Employee Fair Hearing Act in the Pine Bluff School District and 6-3 to waive both laws for educators in the Little Rock School District. 

The Teacher Fair Dismissal Act and the Employee Fair Hearing Act were instituted to ensure students have the best educators in their schools and to allow them to advocate for what is best for students without fear of retaliation. These laws have ensured integrity in the work educators do with their students every day as well as provide a path to support continued educator growth in the profession.  

Both districts are classified as in Level 5 Intensive Support Status, giving the State Board the authority to grant the waivers. However, neither superintendent requested the waiver, and Little Rock Superintendent Mike Poore struggled to answer board members when they asked directly if he wanted the waiver. Multiple board members, as well as the newly appointed Pine Bluff superintendent, said they believe most issues are not with teachers in classrooms and are instead at the administration level.  

Dozens of parents, community members, elected officials and educators spent hours testifying heartfelt opposition to the proposals. Their effort to stand up for students and educators fell on deaf ears. 

The waiver for the Pine Bluff School District is for the 2019/2020 school year. The waiver granted in Little Rock will take effect immediately.  

Thursday’s attack on educators is yet another in a series of efforts to undermine public education in Arkansas. This sustained and wanton effort to erode, waive and undermine long-standing educational standards only serves to harm students and the education professionals supporting them every day.  

Following the brazen disregard for public comment by the State Board of Education, we fear the attack on public education will only continue in January as the 92nd General Assembly convenes. 

2019 marks AEA’s 150th year of advocating for public education, and we will continue to stand up for Arkansas’s students and educators in all forums where public policy is decided. We invite you to join us.

 

The Arkansas Education Association is a professional organization for teachers, education support professionals, students and advocates. Our fundamental objective is to work for quality and equitable public education for all of Arkansas students, the betterment of the Arkansas state education system and quality working conditions for educators.


AEA/NEA Nomination Deadline: 5 pm: Friday, December 7

Dec 3, 2018

AEA Nomination Form: AEA is now accepting nominations for the following positions: AEA President/NEA Delegate, AEA Vice President/NEA Delegate, Board Members representing Higher Ed, Regional NEA Delegates, and District Board Members. This form must be completed and submitted no later than 5:00 p.m. on Friday, December 7, 2018. Your photo and candidate statement must be submitted with this form. If you have questions or have any difficulty with your submission, contact the AEA Office at 501-375-4611, Ext. 100.

Student-AEA Nomination Form: AEA is now accepting nominations for the following positions. This form must be completed and submitted no later than 5:00 p.m. on Friday, December 7, 2018. Your photo and candidate statement must be submitted with this form. If you have questions or have any difficulty with your submission, contact the AEA Office at 501-375-4611, Ext. 100.

 

  1. Student-AEA President/AEA Board Member/NEA Delegate
  2. Student-AEA Vice President/ Alternate NEA Delegate #1
  3. Student-AEA Secretary/Alternate NEA Delegate #2

 

Retired-AEA Nomination information can be found HERE. The nomination form is available HERE.


General Election Information

Oct 23, 2018

Elections are how we hold our elected officials accountable. For this reason, educators must be involved.

Election Day:

You can vote at your poll on Election Day, November 6 from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Find your polling place at Arkansas Voter View.

Bring your ID:

In March 2017, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law a bill requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls. Under this law, a voter who does not possess the required form of identification may cast a provisional ballot after signing a sworn statement attesting to his or her identity.

Vote Early:

During the preferential primary early voting is available October 22nd, through November 5. Voting locations are open between the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Early voting ends at 5 p.m. on the Monday before the election. Off-site early voting hours may vary by county; watch your local newspaper or contact your county clerk for information.

You can find more information about elections in Arkansas at the Secretary of State’s website.


Benton Educator Recognized Jamie Stearns to Receive National Award for Teaching Excellence

Jul 19, 2018

The NEA Foundation Names Benton Educator to Receive National Award

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 19, 2018) – The NEA Foundation today announced that Jamie Stearns, an Eighth Grade Language Arts Educator at Benton Junior High School, is one of 46 public school educators who will receive the prestigious California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala next February in Washington, D.C.

 

The California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence awardees are nominated by their peers for their dedication to the profession, community engagement, professional development, attention to diversity, and advocacy for fellow educators.

 

Each year, the Salute to Excellence in Education Gala draws almost 1,000 supporters of public education, and thousands more online, to applaud these awardees. At the gala, the educators are truly the stars, celebrated throughout the night with music, performances, videos, and more.

 

“We are delighted that during our 50th anniversary next year, we will celebrate the largest number of awardees in our history. These educators are keeping the promise of public education by creating learning opportunities for their students that are relevant and rigorous. They advocate for each other, the profession, and public education,” says Harriet Sanford, NEA Foundation President and CEO. “We deeply appreciate California Casualty’s partnership in recognizing these exemplary educators, and we look forward to honoring them next February on stage at the beautiful National Building Museum in Washington, DC and with virtual celebrations across the country.”

 

“We are glad to have the chance to show our respect and appreciation for the work of public school educators each year,” says Beau Brown, California Casualty CEO. “We applaud the great work of the California Casualty awardees.”

 

Of the 46 state awardees who were nominated by their National Education Association state affiliate, five finalists will be announced at the beginning of the school year and receive $10,000 at the gala. The nation’s top educator will be revealed at the gala on February 8, 2019 and receive an additional $25,000. The gala will be livestreamed at neafoundation.org.

The NEA Foundation and the National Education Association jointly present the awards. Find more information about the awards and a gallery of this year’s awardees.

About the NEA Foundation

The NEA Foundation is a public charity founded by educators for educators to improve public education for all students. Since our beginning in 1969, the Foundation has served as a laboratory of learning, offering funding and other resources to public school educators, their schools, and districts to solve complex teaching and learning challenges. We elevate and share educator solutions to ensure greater reach and impact on student learning. We believe that when educators unleash their own power, ideas, and voices, communities, schools, and students all benefit. Visit neafoundation.org for more information. Find us on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to our blog.


Magic Springs Partnership

Apr 18, 2018

 

AEA is excited to announce a new opportunity for members to save through a partnership with Magic Springs! AEA Members can now receive 50% off the daily admission rate to the Hot Springs water park, as well as discounted season passes.

You can check out the park at this website, but be sure to buy your tickets at this link to access the discounted rates.

AEA Online Flyer

Magic Springs Calendar Dates

Upcoming Events at Magic Springs

 


Voter Information

Apr 16, 2018

Educators are no stranger to paperwork, but this may be the most important form you fill out this year.
Make sure you’re registered to vote!

Elections are how we hold our elected officials accountable. For this reason, educators must be involved. The 2018 election season is in full swing, and many of the state legislative races will be decided in the primary election on May 22.

The deadline to register to vote in the May 22 primary elections is April 23. Early voting begins May 7. Check your registration here.

Open Primaries:

In a primary election, registered voters select a candidate that they believe should be a political party’s nominee for elected office to run in the general election.

Arkansas has open primaries which allow a voter to vote on a ballot of their choosing even if they are not a member of the party. Voters will be asked to select a Republican, Democratic, or nonpartisan ballot when they arrive at the polling place. Judicial races will also appear on the May 22nd ballot, along with some school board races.

Election Day:

You can vote at your poll on Election Day, May 22 from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Find your polling place at Arkansas Voter View.

Bring your ID:

In March 2017, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law a bill requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls. Under this law, a voter who does not possess the required form of identification may cast a provisional ballot after signing a sworn statement attesting to his or her identity.

Vote Early:

During the preferential primary early voting is available May 7, through the 21st. Voting locations are open between the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Early voting ends at 5 p.m. on the Monday before the election. Off-site early voting hours may vary by county; watch your local newspaper or contact your county clerk for information.

You can find more information about elections in Arkansas at the Secretary of State’s website.


2018 Legislative Wrap Up

Mar 12, 2018
On Monday (3/12/18), lawmakers officially wrapped up the 2018 Fiscal Legislative Session, returning to Little Rock to adjourn sine die. This session saw far more education-related proposals than any previous fiscal session. As always, AEA was at the Capitol representing our members and public education every day.

What education proposals were considered?

Voucher Expansion through 529 Plans 

The biggest education fight this session centered around HB1122. This bill is the appropriation bill for the State Treasurer’s Office. Late in the session, lawmakers added language to the bill that effectively creates a new voucher program via the Arkansas tax code.

Lawmakers added the program through a little-known process called “special language.” The Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) estimated that this new voucher program, which would expand the use of 529 savings plans to help fund private school tuition, would mean a $5.2 million loss to our state budget.

Supporters of this proposal needed 75 votes to pass the measure. On the first attempt, the bill only received 56 votes. On a second attempt the proposal received 74 votes. The measure lost more support leading up to the third (and final) vote in the last few days of the legislative session. Legislators were at an impasse.  The controversial language that had been added to create the voucher program was stripped from the bill. AEA strongly opposed this proposal and was the only organization to testify in opposition.  AEA members played a critical role in the defeat of this bill by reaching out to key lawmakers across Arkansas.

ALERT: A similar proposal will now be considered during a special session beginning Tuesday morning (3/13). During this session, such a proposal will only require a simple majority in the House and Senate, rather than the required three-fourths supporters failed to muster during the fiscal session.

Governor’s Letters:

1) Voucher Funding Increase

Governor Hutchinson, via a mechanism called a “Governor’s Letter,” successfully gained legislative approval to add public dollars to two education funding bills.

The first Governor’s Letter seeks legislative approval to add nearly a quarter of a million dollars to the deceptively named “Succeed Scholarship” voucher program. This program sends public funds to unaccountable private schools.

Even worse, the program primarily targets students on an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and requires parents or guardians to waive the child’s federal civil rights protections to participate. This proposal was added to SB37.

2) Charter Facility Funding Increase 

The second Governor’s letter would increase charter school facilities funding by $1.5 million dollars. The Governor’s support of these programs adds pressure to an already strained state budget by creating additional lanes of state expenditures. This additional spending was added to SB33.

These proposals erode the state’s ability to adequately resource our public schools as required by the Arkansas State Constitution.

Catastrophic Funding for Students with Special Needs

The Joint Budget Committee also defeated an attempt to increase funding for students with special needs. Three times, lawmakers voted down an amendment to SB33 by Rep. Michael John Gray that would begin to address the demonstrated need in the state’s catastrophic special education fund. This severely underfunded part of the budget helps school districts around Arkansas meet the needs of the most vulnerable students in our public schools. AEA supported this amendment. Voting against funding for this special education proposal was:

Sen. Scott Flippo, R, Bull Shoals
Sen. John Cooper, R, Jonesboro
Sen. Missy Irvin, R, Mountain View
Sen. Jane English, R, North LR
Sen. Lance Eads, R, Springdale
Sen. Jim Hendren, R, Gravette
Sen. Bart Hester, R, Cave Springs
Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R, Texarkana

Arkansas Works

In addition to these education-related proposals, funding for Arkansas’s Medicaid Expansion Program – also known as Arkansas Works – which has a significant impact on the state budget as a whole was approved after Trump Administration officials agreed to require program participants to work.

What’s Next?

The Governor has called a Special Legislative session to begin on Tuesday (3/13). Lawmakers will again take up the voucher proposal to expand utilization of 529 plans to incentivize spending on private schools. During this session, such a proposal would only require 51 of 100 votes to pass in the House and 18 out of 35 in the Senate.

New Legislative Leadership

The Senate has elected Sen. Jim Hendren, R of Gravette to be President Pro Tempore of the Senate replacing Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R, of Beebe.

The House has elected Rep. Matthew Shepard of El Dorado as the Speaker of the House replacing Rep. Jeremy Gillam, R, of Judsonia.

The House has elected Rep. Matthew Shepard, R, of El Dorado as the Speaker of the House replacing Rep. Jeremy Gillam, R, of Judsonia.

 

 

The Senate has elected Sen. Jim Hendren, R. of Gravette to be President Pro Tempore of the Senate replacing Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R, of Beebe.

ELECTIONS: Mark Your Calendars

March 1st was the last day for candidates to file to run for office in Arkansas (see the full list HERE). This means election season is in full swing.Many of the state legislative races will be decided in the primary election. This year, it will be on May 22nd. Judicial races will also appear on the May 22nd ballot along with some school board races, provided that the local school board elected to hold the election on this date instead of during the November 6 General Election.Monday, April 22nd is the deadline to register to vote and participate in this election.

 

Voters will be asked to select a Republican, Democratic, or nonpartisan ballot when they arrive at the polling place. Arkansas has open primaries which allow a voter to vote on a ballot of their choosing.

Voters must be registered to vote by April 23 to be eligible to vote in the May 22nd election.


Northeast Arkansas Education Forum Education Advocates Invite Parents and Community Members

Mar 2, 2018

Contact: Kyle Leyenberger // kleyenberger@aeanea.org // 479-544-7878

Jonesboro, AR — Parents, teachers, administrators, school board members and other education advocates will celebrate the success of Northeast Arkansas’ public schools and discuss students’ needs for the future Tuesday, March 6th at 5:30 pm at Jonesboro High School (310 Hurricane Drive, Jonesboro, AR 72401).

Local members of Arkansans for Quality Education and leaders are working together to plan the education forum. Educators from Jonesboro, Paragould, Harrisburg, Newport and Lawrence County school districts will each share stories of the exciting things happening in their buildings.

Jonesboro Superintendent Dr. Kim Wilbanks says it will be an important opportunity for the community to learn specific ways Northeast Arkansas school districts are improving student achievement, and how they can help to ensure successful strategies are implemented statewide.

“Educators and public school advocates already agree on a variety of practice-proven ways to increase student success,” Wilbanks says. “Together, we must call on our elected officials to spread these improvements across Arkansas to ensure a brighter future for all students.”

The public is invited and encouraged to attend. Heavy appetizers will be served at the event.

Arkansans for Quality Education formed to push for proven, consensus-based education reform at the Capitol. Its members include the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators, Arkansas Education Association, Arkansas Parent Teacher Association, Arkansas Opportunity to Learn Campaign, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, Arkansas School Boards Association, Arkansas Rural Education Association, Arkansas Citizens First Congress, and Rural Community Alliance.