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Future Arkansas legislative debates will center on school choice



Little Rock, Arkansas – Arkansas’s 2023 legislative session is quickly approaching, and lawmakers are debating some crucial issues that will be on the agenda.

Education will be one of the key areas of concentration in the forthcoming session, according to Senate Pro Tempore President Bart Hester.

School choice is a topic that is frequently discussed in relation to education.

“We’re going to work on educational freedom, and that’s for every kid in Arkansas,” Hester said. “Our biggest priority in Arkansas is parental empowerment through choice.”

Despite announcing her departure from the Senate after the 2023 session, Senator Joyce Elliott insisted that she still thinks public schools should receive more attention than school choice.

“We can do better if we decide to,” Elliott said. “It’s about priorities.”

Hester added that this session, lawmakers might think about how to use scholarships to send particular students to private schools outside of their assigned districts if that is what is necessary for those students.

He claimed that rather than safeguarding an institution, his priority is educating a youngster.

“I want to focus on money following a child and educating a child not supporting some institution.”

On the other hand, Elliott stated that while she is not opposed to private, charter, or homeschooling, she thinks public funding for education should go specifically toward creating public schools from the ground up, putting a special emphasis on the neighborhood the district is in, and giving its residents more power.

“Children should not be held hostage to their zip code in a bad school…who disagrees with that?’ Elliott said. “But evidently someone must be okay with it because if you’re willing to take out a few and leave the rest behind you’re still leaving kids behind.”

Elliott expressed worry over the use of public monies for homeschooling, charter schools, and private schools as opposed to those intended for state funding.

“To me, the saving grace for our country is public schools,” she said.

Hester stated that this did not diminish the state’s support of Arkansas’s public schools.

“We’re very supportive of our public schools in Arkansas,” he said. “44 cents out of every dollar that comes to the state of Arkansas goes to public school systems.”

Once this legislative session gets underway, Hester stated, the public school system will continue to get support.

He added that raising teacher compensation is one issue that everyone can anticipate being discussed this session. He continued by saying that during this congressional session, both Democrats and Republicans support this.

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