School bill goes to committee Thursday

School bill goes to committee Thursday

LITTLE ROCK, AR (KAIT) - A bill that would create a program to help parents provide a private school education for their children is headed to the House Education Committee Thursday.

House Bill 1222, sponsored by Rep. Jim Dotson, R-Bentonville, is called the Arkansas Parental Empowerment for Education Choice Act of 2017. Under the bill, a non-profit organization can apply to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration to create a program to fund education savings accounts.

Students in grades K-12 would be eligible for the savings accounts, which can be used for:

  • Non-public school in Arkansas.
  • Non-public online learning program or course.
  • Textbooks required by a nonpublic school.
  • Tutoring services provided by a teacher licensed by the Arkansas State Board of Education, a person qualified as a substitute teacher, has experience teaching at an institution of higher education.
  • Curriculum or other instructional materials.

The student can also use the account to pay for fees for college placement tests like the ACT or SAT, as well as summer school and after school programs, under the bill.

There was a meeting in January in Brookland where supporters and opponents spoke about the bill. Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Jonesboro, one of the co-sponsors, said the bill will help provide students an opportunity.

"Because of the limited funds, the limited funds will support about 1,500 students," Sullivan said. "There's 377,000 plus students in the state."

However, Walnut Ridge Superintendent Terry Belcher said the bill could do harm to school districts.

"You know, if you lose three or five students a year at $3,000 to $6,000 multiplied by 5, that is $30,000," Belcher said in January. "If you lose five a year over ten years it's $300,000. That's just five students."

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