Members of the House Education committee passed legislation today that would greatly expand school choice in the Natural State.
The legislation introduced by state Rep. Jim Dotson would create education savings accounts (ESAs) to subsidize the cost of a K-12 student to attend nonpublic schools or a nonpublic online program. These ESAs would be funded by donations from private businesses and individuals, who would receive a tax credit in exchange for their donation. ESA recipients would receive $6,646, currently the state’s minimum educational foundation funding total, to use on educational expenditures. Donations would be sent to qualifying nonprofits approved by the Department of Finance and Administration, according to the legislation.
Dotson said in his committee testimony:
I realize this is a complex and lengthy bill, but the purpose of this bill is really quite simple. The purpose of this bill is for students to have access to educational services that specifically meet that student’s unique needs.
The measure passed by a margin of 12 to 4. You can see the vote count here. The legislation will advance to the House floor next week.
In other news, the Senate finally passed “Campus Carry” legislation Thursday afternoon.
The measure was approved by a margin of 18 to 9 in the Senate, after stalling there for nearly three weeks.
The final amended version allows anyone with a concealed carry license (CCL) to carry a weapon on campus and other state-owned properties like the State Capitol. CCL holders would be required to receive “up to” 8 hours of additional training before being able to legally carry in these places.
State Sen. Jim Hendren said the additional training requirement “strikes a balance” that makes the legislation better.
My daughter is at Liberty University now in Virginia where they allow students to carry. Jerry Falwell Jr. stands up and encourages them to carry. They’re building a shooting range. Do I feel like she’s in more danger in that environment than when she attended the University of Arkansas for a semester? I don’t.
Sen. Linda Collins-Smith said she supported State Rep. Charlie Collins’s original bill to allow staff and faculty on college campuses to carry with a CCL, but not the additional mandated training requirement.
I didn’t sign up for this bill or anything like it. What are we voting for in this bill if it becomes law? More mandates and restrictions on the very people that already have concealed carry licenses.
The bill will now go back to the House for further consideration.