By Cecillea Pond-Mayo/Arkansas House Chief Information Officer

When it comes to K-12 education, this session the House has addressed everything from school bus safety to reading proficiency.

Act 246 increases the minimum amount a school district can pay a teacher. It increases the minimum amount by $400 for the next school year. School districts can pay more but not less than the minimum amount set by the state. The minimum starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree would be $31,400 a year. For a new teacher with a master’s degree the minimum starting salary would be $36,050.

The House passed SB328, which requires anyone who applies for a K-6 teaching license or a special education K-12 license to receive training and pass a test on the science of reading. This legislation is designed to improve the ways schools teach students to read. Currently, 63% of Arkansas third graders are not reading at grade level. This bill has passed both chambers but now in the process of amendment approval back in the Senate.

Act 173 allows a student who attends a private school or home school to enroll in an academic course within their public school district. The public school district that enrolls a private school or home school student would be entitled to 1/6 of the state foundation funding amount for each course.

The House passed HB1539 which requires students to pass the civics portion of the naturalization test, used by immigration services, before they can receive their high school diploma. The bill would require the student to answer at least 60 of the 100 questions correctly. It allows the students to take the test as many times as needed. This is awaiting approval in the Senate.

HB1144 allows images gathered from an automated school bus camera to be used in court. This technology could be used to investigate cases of drivers passing a stopped school bus. This bill is now awaiting the Governor’s signature.

HB1002 directs school district administration officials to calculate the cost of placing seatbelts on new school buses if 10% of individuals within the district sign a petition. This would then allow voters to decide if they want to pursue installing the seat belts at the next school board election. This bill is now awaiting the Governor’s signature.

The House Education Committee advanced legislation this week designed to help fund technical training programs for high school students.

SB288 would allow a school district to join with cities, counties, vocational-technical schools, and even neighboring school districts to create workforce development centers. These centers would provide students, who may not want to pursue a degree, an opportunity to learn a technical skill such as welding.

The sponsor of the legislation explained that many school districts cannot afford the state of the art equipment and facilities that are now needed to provide proper training. This would allow cities and counties to work together with the schools to develop new funding sources.

There are still more than 30 bills waiting to be heard before the House Education Committee. All House education meetings are held on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 10am. The meetings are streamed lived and also archived on our website www.arkansashouse.org.

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