LEARNS bill passes Arkansas House

The Arkansas House of Representatives approved a sweeping education package that would give parents universal choice by the 2025-2026 school year and raise starting teacher pay to $50,000 a year.

Republicans Jim Wooten, Hope Duke, and Julie Mayberry joined Democrats in voting against the bill.

Duke said she liked a lot about the bill. But she had concerns that were also shared by members of her district that included the scope and the speed in which the bill moved through the Legislature.

"But the third one, this has been one of the hardest ones for me to get past, was the financial piece," Duke, R-Gravette, said. "The financial piece on what it's going to do to local school districts and what it could do to the state in years to come."

The Senate will consider the bill again due to an added amendment allowing teachers to appeal their dismissal before their local school board.

The bill would cost $298 million in the first year, with $150 million being new money, according to a fiscal impact statement released by the Arkansas Department of Education. The increase in teachers' salaries would make up $180 million of the cost each year.

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