The President's Post

Dear AEA Members,

As we expand and grow, continue in the fight for public education, and carry the torch of fairness for every student and AEA member, we cannot lose focus on the gains that have been made. Let's work on finishing strong in these last few weeks of the 2016-17 school year! You've all done an amazing job!  This is the time of year our students write us notes and give us the best surprises that remind each of us why we chose to work with the children of Arkansas.  A lot of work has been accomplished and there is more to be done and I promise to remain in the fight with you always!

Join me in congratulating the newly elected State President, Ms. Catherine Koehler, and the incoming new AEA board members for the upcoming year.

 

Early Enrollment Just for You 

There's no better time to have educators join AEA than right now! When you encourage your colleagues to join during Early Enrollment they gain access to benefits and special programs offered by NEA Member Benefits.

From now until August 31, there is NO CHARGE for being an AEA member. In fact, joining today means new members get summer long benefits for free!  

 

Arkansas will celebrate National Teacher Appreciation Week May 7th through May 12th.  As always, please capture any celebratory photos and post them to your social media accounts with the hashtag #ARcelebratesTeachers.

 

Don't forget - AEA will host you at our upcoming AEA Leaders Conference in Hot Springs, AR June 9 - 10, 2017.  Registration fee is $25 and AEA takes care of housing and meals while there!  You can register online at www.aeaonline.org.  Any specific questions should be addressed to Ms. Alice Canady at 375-4611 ext. 119.

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced the No Child Left Behind Act, states are given the opportunity to develop an accountability system that best measures their students' academic performance. The Arkansas Department of Education announced efforts to develop Arkansas' plan in August 2016. The first draft of the Arkansas Accountability System plan is available online at http://www.arkansased.gov/divisions/public-school-accountability/every-student-succeeds-act-essa/first-draft-aprill-24-2017.  Input regarding the first draft can be e-mailed to ade.essacomments@arkansas.gov. ADE asked that when reviewing the draft, please consider the following questions.

• What clarification is needed in the draft?

• What supporting information or additional details will make the plan more informative?

• How can the sections of the draft be more cohesive?

• What changes to the draft will help the public better understand the plan? 

Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers (PACT) wins major victory for two of its members

A challenge that started in 2014 with the Pulaski County Special School District's grievance process, resulted in a decision on April 26, 2017, by the Arkansas Court of Appeals in favor of two teachers.  

The Court of Appeals held that the District violated the non-instructional duty time law by assigning the two teachers more than 60 minutes of supervision each week.  They are both awarded pay for the extra non- instructional duty time per week and the District is directed not to assign them more than 60 minutes of non-instructional duty per week in the future.

The Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers (PACT) is an affiliate of the Arkansas Education Association and the National Education Association.

General Assembly Formally Adjourns 2017 Regular Session, Convenes a Special Session

Bill Summaries and Legislative Update

Yesterday, the 2017 Regular Legislative Session adjourned 'sine die'.  This marks the official adjournment of the session.  However, late Friday, Governor Asa Hutchinson issued a proclamation calling the legislature back to the Capitol to begin a special or 'extraordinary' legislative session on Monday as well.  

The main focus of the special session will be changes to the Arkansas Works Medicaid program. In addition, lawmakers will be considering a long-term reserve fund for the state and changes to several medical marijuana statutes.  Also on Friday, the Governor announced a $70 million cut to the state budget for the current fiscal year which ends June 30.  This cut is due to a significant shortfall in state revenue collections that came in well below projections.  We do not anticipate that these cuts will affect K-12 education funding. The special session is only expected to last 3 days.

2017 Regular Legislative Session Wrap-up 

Below is a wrap-up of the 2017 regular legislative session including an overview of major legislative proposals as well as a summary of new public education laws including ones that impact the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System.

Legislators convened on January 9th and recessed on April 3rd.  Lawmakers returned to the Capitol on May 1 for the official sine die adjournment. This session, lawmakers filed a total of 2,015 bills and joint resolutions.

2017 Regular Session Major Public Education Proposals that Became Law Include:  

·         School elections no longer held in September. Can be held on preferential primary date or general election date as of Jan. 1, 2018 (HB1621)  HB1567 HB1056)

·         $400 Increase in each step of minimum teacher salary schedule (HB1014)

·         Streamlining changes to Teacher Excellence & Support System (TESS) (HB1424)

·         Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) school accountability plan (HB1608) 

·         Creation of a new pilot program to expand recess (SB549)

·         Expanded "Succeed Scholarship" voucher program HB1461 

·         $250 Tax deduction for educators purchasing classroom materials HB1014

Major Public Education Proposals that Died upon Adjournment or Were Defeated Include:

·         Education Savings Accounts (vouchers) (HB1222) & (SB746)

·         Waiver of Teacher Fair Dismissal Act (HB1017)

·         Expanded process to waive educational standards (HB1820)

·         Waiving Teacher Fair Dismissal (HB1017)

 

Public Education-Related Constitutional Amendments

Four amendments to the Arkansas Constitution were introduced in the 2017 legislative session.  Three of the proposed amendments sought to erode the landmark Lakeview decision that has drastically improved how Arkansas's public education system is resourced among other significant advancements. AEA actively opposed all 3 of the resolutions that contained substantive language. Fortunately, none of these proposals advanced. 

 

SJR5 AN AMENDMENT TO THE ARKANSAS CONSTITUTION PROVIDING THAT THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY SHALL BE THE SOLE AND EXCLUSIVE EVALUATOR OF WHETHER THE SYSTEM OF FREE PUBLIC SCHOOLS SATISFIES THE ARKANSAS CONSTITUTION  by Sen. Alan Clark (R ) Lonsdale, Would have designated the General Assembly as the sole and exclusive evaluator of whether the state's public school system satisfied the requirements of the state constitution. This resolution failed to advance and died upon adjournment.

  

SJR3 by Sen. Blake Johnson (R) Corning and HJR 1005 by Rep. Mark Lowery (R) Maumelle are both titled THE PUBLIC EDUCATION PARTNERSHIP AMENDMENT OF 2018 and contain the same language. These resolutions would have amended the Constitution to specify that the actions of the General Assembly with regard to the supervision of public schools do not violate the Constitution's requirement for the state to maintain a public school system. 

 

HJR 1010 AN AMENDMENT TO THE ARKANSAS CONSTITUTION CONCERNING THE FUNDING OF PUBLIC EDUCATION OFFERED TO THE CITIZENS OF THE STATE OF ARKANSAS by Rep. Jim Dotson (R) Bentonville proposed this measure but it remained a shell bill through the duration of the legislative session and died upon adjournment.    

 

SUMMARY OF PUBLIC EDUCATION RELATED LEGISLATION: 2017 REGULAR SESSION