Lawmakers okay reallocation of $34 million for LEARNS Act initiatives
Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed her Arkansas LEARNS legislation into law on March 8, 2023 at the state Capitol in Little Rock. The governor shakes the hand of state Rep. Keith Brooks, left, R-Little Rock, House sponsor of the Arkansas LEARNS Act, as primary sponsor Sen. Breanne Davis, R-Russellville, looks on. At right is Arkansas Education Secretary Jacob Oliva. (John Sykes/Arkansas Advocate)
An Arkansas Legislative Council committee on Tuesday approved the reallocation of $34.7 million in federal recovery funding to support provisions of the LEARNS Act, a new law that changes multiple aspects of the state’s education system, including teacher pay, graduation requirements and literacy standards.
Members of the ALC’s Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review subcommittee advanced a request by the Arkansas Department of Education to use $6.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for literacy coaches, $8.5 million for supplemental education services and $20 million for high-impact tutoring.
This reallocation of a previously-awarded appropriation must receive final approval by the full Legislative Council, which is scheduled to meet Friday morning.
As a recipient of ARP Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund money, the state was required to create a plan describing how the funds would be used, and to obligate funds by Sept. 30, 2024. To date, ADE’s Division of Elementary and Secondary Education has obligated $96.75 billion for projects.
Officials said Tuesday that all other items on the state’s plan will still be funded at their previously-authorized level, but ADE will use other COVID-related federal dollars such as Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) funding instead of ARP funding.
While opponents of the LEARNS Act have criticized a lack of specifics for funding the law’s many provisions, Tuesday’s request was not a surprise. Joint Budget Committee co-chair Sen. Jonathan Dismang, a Republican from Searcy, said during a Senate meeting in February that American Rescue Plan Act funds would be one-time money used to support the intensive literacy coaches proposed in the LEARNS Act.
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