Public Education Related Constitutional Amendments Fail to Advance

Dozens More Education Bills on the Move

Activity at the Capitol quickened this week as the March 6th bill filing deadline approaches.  Here are some highlights from the week:

HB1155  by Rep. Bruce Cozart (R) Hot Springs cleared the final hurdle this week and became law.  It is now Act 246. This bill will raise the salaries included in all categories of the Teacher Minimum Compensation Schedule by $400.

SB328 by Sen. Alan Clark (R) of Lonsdale would require the State Board of Education to test applicants for first-time licensure for elementary education K-6 and for special education K-12, in subject matter content, pedagogy, and knowledge of beginning reading instruction. This bill passed the Senate last week and cleared the House Education Committee this week.  We expect it to clear the full House next week.

In addition, HB1424 by Rep. DeAnn Vaught (R) Horatio which seeks to streamline TESS cleared the Senate this week.  AEA testified in support of this bill when it was heard in both the House and Senate Education Committees. The bill now heads to Governor's desk for his signature.

Two problematic bills also advanced quickly this week. HB1461 by Rep. Carlton Wing (R) of North Little Rock seeks to allow parents to take the Succeed Scholarship Program voucher to private schools that are unaccredited and not subject to any public oversight.  Parents would still be required to waive their child's federal civil rights protections under IDEA. AEA Executive Director, Tracey-Ann Nelson, testified strongly against this legislation which takes public funds and sends our most vulnerable children into unaccredited and unaccountable private schools.  The bill has now passed the House and Senate and heads to the Governor for his signature.

SB308 by Sen. Alan Clark (R) of Lonsdale would grant public charter schools access to unused or underutilized facilities of public schools; create a leasing process by which a charter school may lease such facilities. This bill received a tough hearing in the Senate Education Committee, but ultimately advanced.  It also cleared the full Senate this week and is expected to be heard in the House Education Committee next week.

The House State Agencies subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments chose not to advance HJR 1005 this week. This resolution would allow Arkansas voters to amend the Constitution to specify that the actions of the General Assembly with regard to the supervision of public schools do not violate the Constitution's requirement for the state to maintain a public school system and sets up a partnership between the state and local public school districts to fund schools. This proposal is extremely problematic and would significantly undermine the Lake View decision that ensures adequate funding for public education.

Tools to advocate for public education

As the legislative session goes into high speed, it's even more important than ever that you spend some time with AEA's Educator's Guide to the Capitol:  Creating the Schools Our Students DeserveIt includes information on how to contact legislators, tips on how to be an effective advocate, education committee membership and a guide to the Capitol.

Remember, you may call and leave a message by calling:  

501-682-6211 for your House Representative, or

501-682-2902 for your Senator. 

These messages are a very effective form of advocacy. Legislators receive a stack of phone messages on their desk about various bills.

  

Bills AEA is tracking including all new bills this week and retirement bills

HB1208 TO ALLOW A STUDENT WHO ATTENDS A PRIVATE SCHOOL OR A HOME SCHOOL TO ENROLL IN AN ACADEMIC COURSE WITHIN THE PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

Summary: Allows public school districts to adopt policies authorizing private-schooled or home-schooled children in the public school's district to enroll in limited numbers of classes at the public school

Bill Sponsor: Rep. Mark Lowery (R) Maumelle

Status: This bill was signed into law and is now Act 173.

HB1044 TO ALLOW A STUDENT TO CHOOSE WHICH GRADE IN WHICH TO TAKE THE COLLEGE AND CAREER READINESS ASSESSMENT.

Summary: This bill allows a student to decide to take a college and career readiness assessment in either the tenth or eleventh grade. Currently, the law states that any school serving students 10-12th grade must administer this exam before a student graduates from high school.

Bill sponsor: RepFred Allen (D) Little Rock

Status: This bill has been placed on the active agenda for House Education Committee.

SB27 TO INCREASE THE NUMBER OF TEACHERS IN A CRITICAL TEACHER SHORTAGE AREA; AND TO ESTABLISH THE TEACHER CANDIDATE LOAN FORGIVENESS PROGRAM.

Summary: This bill offers $5,000 a year for up to 3 years for students in a degree program that leads to becoming eligible for licensure in a high-needs subject area as identified by ADE.  Program participants must teach in a geographic area identified by ADE as a critical teacher shortage area beginning immediately upon obtaining licensure.  Participants must repay the loans if they fail to meet these obligations. 

Bill sponsor: Sen. Alan Clark (R) Lonsdale

Status: This bill cleared the Senate this week and now heads to the House.

HB1014 TO CREATE THE TEACHER'S CLASSROOM INVESTMENT DEDUCTION.

Summary: This bill creates a tax deduction for certain items purchased by a teacher for classroom use.

Bill sponsor:  Rep. Greg Leding (D) Fayetteville

Status:  This bill remains on the House Committee on Revenue and Tax's agenda.

SB21 TO REQUIRE SPECIFIC ASSESSMENTS TO BE SUCCESSFULLY PASSED IN ORDER TO OBTAIN AN ELEMENTARY-LEVEL GENERAL TEACHING LICENSE OR ELEMENTARY-LEVEL SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHING LICENSE.

Summary:  This bill would require that people seeking elementary-level general teaching license or elementary level special education licensure take the Foundations of Reading Test and the General Curriculum Test of the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure, including the mathematics subtest, and submit the scores to ADE.

Bill sponsor: Bill sponsor:  Sen. Alan Clark (R) Lonsdale

Status:  This bill remains on the Senate Education Committee's agenda.

HB1029 TO EXCLUDE PRINCIPALS, ASSISTANT PRINCIPALS, AND CENTRAL OFFICE EMPLOYEES WITH A MULTIYEAR EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT FROM THE DEFINITION OF "TEACHER" UNDER THE TEACHER FAIR DISMISSAL ACT OF 1983.

Summary: This bill seeks to exclude central office staff, principals and assistant principals with a multiyear contract from the definition of teacher under the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act.

Bill sponsor:  Rep. Mark Lowrey (R) Maumelle. 

Status:  This bill remains on the House Education Committee's deferred agenda.

SB26 TO INCREASE TEACHERS IN HIGH NEEDS SUBJECT AREAS; AND TO PROVIDE ENHANCED ARKANSAS ACADEMIC CHALLENGE SCHOLARSHIPS FOR TEACHERS WHO AGREE TO TEACH IN THE HIGH NEEDS SUBJECT AREAS.

Summary: This bill seeks to allow for a student who has already received the Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship to receive an enhanced award of $5,000 if the recipient is classified as a junior, another enhanced award of $5,000 if the recipient is classified as a senior, maintains a GPA of 3.25, is enrolled in a teacher education program and agrees to teach in a high-needs subject area as determined by ADE for a minimum of 5 years.  The total amount cannot exceed $10,000.  The recipient must repay the amount if they do not seek licensure in a high-needs subject area and begin employment in the high needs subject area in the recipient's first year after licensure.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Alan Clark (R) Lonsdale. 

Status:  This bill passed the Senate this week and now heads to the House.

HB1002 TO REGULATE EQUIPMENT REQUIRED FOR SCHOOL BUSES; TO REQUIRE THAT CERTAIN SCHOOL BUSES BE EQUIPPED WITH SEAT BELTS; AND TO ENFORCE THE USE OF SEAT BELTS ON SCHOOL BUSES EQUIPPED WITH SEAT BELTS.

Summary: This bill seeks to require new school buses purchased on or after Jan.1 2018 to be equipped with seat belts or restraint systems. Exceptions include physical disability, medical reasons, or emergency situations. The bill would also allow a school district to implement a disciplinary policy to enforce seatbelt use.  It also allows for the school district to seek a local property tax increase to purchase, install or maintain seatbelts if 10% of the school district's qualified electors sign a petition to do so.

Bill Sponsor: Rep. Mark McElroy (D) Tillar

Status: This bill has passed the Senate Education Committee this week and heads to the full Senate for consideration.

HB1017 TO ALLOW THE TEACHER FAIR DISMISSAL ACT OF 1983 TO BE WAIVED IF A PUBLIC SCHOOL OR PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT IS UNDER STATE AUTHORITY AFTER BEING CLASSIFIED AS BEING IN DISTRESS.

Summary:  This bill seeks to waive the Teacher Fair Dismissal Act for school districts that have been taken over by the State for academic or fiscal distress.

Bill Sponsor:  Bruce Cozart (R) Hot Springs.

Status:  This bill remains on the House Education Committee's deferred agenda.

HB1019 TO AMEND THE MEMBERSHIP OF THE SCHOOL LEADERSHIP COORDINATING COUNCIL.

Summary:  This bill adds 2 members to the School Leadership Coordinating Council.  The two additional members proposed are the Chair of the House Education Committee and the Chair of the Senate Education Committee.  It also allows these 2 legislative members to be paid per diem and mileage as members of the General Assembly.

Bill sponsor:  Rep Bruce Cozart (R) Hot Springs

Status:  This bill has passed both the House and passed the Senate this week.

HB1022

TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING SCHOOL DISTRICT WAIVERS.

Summary: This is only a shell bill, but it seeks to amend Act 1240 of 2015 to allow school districts that have lost one or more students to a charter school to petition the State Board of Education to grant any or all of the waivers granted to the charter school receiving those students.

Bill Sponsor: Rep. Reginald Murdock (D) Marianna

Status:  This bill is on the House Journal Committee as it remains a shell bill.

HB1027

TO PROHIBIT A SCHOOL DISTRICT FROM USING PUBLIC FUNDS TO PAY A TEACHER'S OR CLASSIFIED EMPLOYEE'S MEMBERSHIP DUES IN A PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATION.

Summary:  This bill seeks to ensure that public school funds are not used to pay any teacher, classified employee or superintendent's dues for their professional association.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Jon Eubanks, (R) Paris

Status: This bill remains on the deferred agenda in the House Education Committee

SB12 TO ESTABLISH THAT EMERGENCY OR SECURITY RECORDS OR OTHER INFORMATION FOR A PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT, PUBLIC SCHOOL, OR STATE-SUPPORTED INSTITUTION OF HIGHER EDUCATION IS EXEMPT FROM THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT OF 1967 

Summary:  This bill seeks to exempt public school and state institutions of higher ed security plans and related documents from FOIA .

Bill sponsor: Gary Stubblefield (R) Branch

Status: This bill has passed the Senate and is currently on the House Education Committee's agenda.

HB1154 AN ACT TO REQUIRE THAT ANY INCREASES IN PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT FUNDING EACH SCHOOL YEAR BE USED FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITIES; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

Summary: Requires the Department of Education to use any additional funding that is over the required amount for teacher professional development for the development and administration of professional learning communities.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Bruce Cozart (R) Hot Springs

Status: This bill passed the House and has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.

HB1155 AN ACT TO AMEND THE MINIMUM TEACHER COMPENSATION SCHEDULE; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

Summary: Raises the salaries included in all categories of the Teacher Minimum Compensation Schedule by $400.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Bruce Cozart (R) Hot Springs

Status:  This bill has been signed into law and is now Act 246.  

SB112 TO ALLOW AN INCOME TAX DEDUCTION FOR QUALIFYING EDUCATION EXPENSES.

Summary:  Creates an income tax deduction for homeschool expenses, private school tuition and expenses and required public school expenses for items such as uniforms, textbooks, instructional materials and supplies.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Jane English (R) North Little Rock

Status:  This bill remains on the Senate Revenue and Tax Committee agenda.

HB1144  AN ACT TO ALLOW THE INSTALLATION AND OPERATION OF AN AUTOMATED SCHOOL BUS SAFETY CAMERA; TO USE A PHOTOGRAPH OR VIDEO AS EVIDENCE OF CERTAIN TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES

Summary:  Allows public school districts or open enrollment charter schools to install automated school bus safety cameras to automatically record vehicles illegally passing a school bus.

Bill sponsor: Rep. McElroy (D) Tillar

Status: This bill has been referred to the Senate Transportation Committee.

HB1222 THE ARKANSAS PARENTAL EMPOWERMENT FOR EDUCATION CHOICE ACT OF 2017

Summary: Creates an income tax credit for donations to nonprofits that distribute education savings accounts to parents for use against the cost of tuition, tutoring, services and related costs of attending nonpublic schools, and higher education institutions.  This is effectively a voucher bill.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Jim Dotson (R) Bentonville

Status: This bill is listed as pending fiscal impact on the House Education Committee agenda. It has already been amended 3 times and we expect additional amendments to be added soon.

HB1303  AN ACT TO AMEND PROVISIONS IN THE ARKANSAS CODE REGARDING THE TEACHER OPPORTUNITY PROGRAM; TO PRIORITIZE THE AWARDING OF FUNDS TO TEACHERS FOR ADDITIONAL EDUCATION IN CERTAIN FIELDS; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES

Summary: Prioritizes funding from the Teacher Opportunity Program to go to teachers seeking additional education in STEM fields, computer science, literacy, pre-K, or special education.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Douglas (R) Alma

Status:  This bill was signed into law last week by the Governor. It is now Act160.

HB1307 CONCERNING THE PAYMENT BY THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION OF HEALTH INSURANCE CONTRIBUTIONS FOR PARTICIPANTS IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOL EMPLOYEES' HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM

Summary: Requires the health insurance contributions made by the Department of Education to take place in equal monthly installments rather than 11; increases the Department's transfer from $35 million to $55 million.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Jim Sorvillo (R) Little Rock

Status:  This bill has passed the House and Senate and has been sent to the Governor's desk for his signature.

HB1408  AN ACT CONCERNING WHO MAY SERVE AS A PROCTOR OF A TEST OR ASSESSMENT ADMINISTERED UNDER THE ARKANSAS COMPREHENSIVE TESTING, ASSESSMENT, AND ACCOUNTABILITY PROGRAM

Summary: Prohibits a relative or guardian of a student taking a comprehensive assessment from proctoring that examination.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Douglas (R) Alma

Status: This bill has been assigned to the House Education Committee.

HB1415 AN ACT TO MAKE TECHNICAL CORRECTIONS TO TITLE 6 OF THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING EDUCATION

Summary: This bill makes technical corrections to the education code.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Matthew Shepard (R) El Dorado

Status: This bill has passed the House and Senate and is now Act 275.

HB1417 CONCERNING THE OFFENSE OF SEXUAL SOLICITATION; PROVIDING FOR IMPOUNDMENT OF A MOTOR VEHICLE; AND PROVIDING FOR HUMAN TRAFFICKING AWARENESS EDUCATION FOR EDUCATORS

Summary: Allows a police department to impound the motor vehicle of a person arrested for sexual solicitation; requires a $500 fee to release the vehicle from impoundment, requires school districts to make 30 mins of professional development available to recognize warning signs of human trafficking and identify victims of human trafficking.

Bill sponsor: Rep. James Sturch (R) Batesville

Status: This bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee

HB1424 TO AMEND THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING THE TEACHER EXCELLENCE AND SUPPORT SYSTEM; AND TO AMEND PROVISIONS OF THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING ADMINISTRATOR EVALUATION

Summary: Amends various provisions of TESS.

Bill sponsor: DeAnn Vaught (R) Horatio

Status: This bill passed the Senate this week and has been sent to the Governor for his signature.

HB1425 CONCERNING THE LICENSURE OF TEACHERS AND ADMINISTRATORS AND LICENSURE EXCEPTIONS; TO AUTHORIZE A TIERED LICENSURE SYSTEM; AND TO ALLOW DISTRICTS TO BASE COMPENSATION ON LICENSURE LEVELS

Summary: Establishes expanded criteria for teacher licensure, creates additional available licenses and provides for a tiered teacher licensure system

Bill Sponsor: DeAnn Vaught (R) Horatio

Status: This bill passed the Senate this week and has been sent to the Governor for his signature.  

HB1435 TO REQUIRE PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND OPEN-ENROLLMENT CHARTER SCHOOLS TO POST THE CHILD ABUSE HOTLINE TELEPHONE NUMBER.

Summary: Requires schools to post the Child Abuse Hotline number in a clearly visible location on their premises as well as in all bathrooms in a manner that allows a student to privately access the information.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Clarke Tucker (D) Little Rock

Status: This bill passed the Senate Education Committee this week and now heads to the full Senate.

SB156  AN ACT TO MAKE AN APPROPRIATION FOR PERSONAL SERVICES AND OPERATING EXPENSES FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDING JUNE 30, 2018; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

Summary: Appropriates funds to the Department of Education for operations.

Bill sponsor: Joint Budget Committee

Status: This bill has been referred to the Joint Budget Committee.

SB168 AN ACT FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION - GRANTS AND AID TO LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS AND SPECIAL PROGRAMS APPROPRIATION FOR THE 2017-2018 FISCAL YEAR.

Summary: Appropriates funds to the Department of Education for grants and aid to local school districts and special programs

Bill sponsor: Joint Budget Committee

Status: This bill remains on the Joint Budget Committee's agenda. 

SB179 TO ALLOW REINSTATEMENT OF A REVOKED EDUCATOR'S LICENSE UPON A SHOWING OF REHABILITATION AND FITNESS TO PERFORM THE DUTIES AUTHORIZED BY THE LICENSE

Summary: Allows the holder of a revoked teaching license to request a hearing before the State Board of Education and present evidence of rehabilitation and fitness to hold a reinstated license.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Joyce Elliott (D) Little Rock

Status: This bill is on the Senate Education Committee and is expected to be heard next week.  Additional amendments to the bill are likely.

HB1442 TO CREATE THE PERSONAL FINANCE AND JOB READINESS ACT

Summary: Amends personal finance curriculum standards to include job seeking skills, soft job skills, and employment benefits; requires high school students to earn a course credit under this curriculum for graduation.

Bill sponsor: Andy Davis (R) Little Rock

Status: This bill passed the House this week and moves on to the Senate.  

HB1456  TO ALLOW A SCHOOL DISTRICT TO WAIVE PHYSICAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS FOR A STUDENT WHO PROVIDES PROOF OF PHYSICAL ACTIVITY; AND TO EXEMPT A STUDENT WITH A PHYSICAL EDUCATION WAIVER FROM PHYSICAL EDUCATION GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS

Summary: Creates a waiver that exempts a student from a school district's physical education requirements with a written form from the student's legal guardians that the student participates in physical activity equal to the district's requirements outside of school.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Douglas (R) Alma

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee

HB1457 TO ALLOW A PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT AND AN OPEN-ENROLLMENT PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL TO DEVELOP A PLAN FOR THE USE OF AN ALTERNATIVE METHOD OF INSTRUCTION TO BE USED ON DAYS WHEN SCHOOL IS CANCELLED

Summary: Authorizes school districts or charter schools to develop and implement pilot programs for alternate instruction methods to be used on days when school is closed due to inclement weather or other circumstances.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Douglas (R) Alma

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee

HB1458 TO REQUIRE A STUDENT TO PARTICIPATE IN VISUAL ARTS OR PERFORMING ARTS IN EITHER GRADE SEVEN OR GRADE EIGHT

Summary:  Changes the arts class credit requirements for students in grades 7 and 8, requiring students to take one performing arts or visual arts class over the two grade years rather than participating during both grade years.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Douglas (R) Alma

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee

HB1459 TO PROVIDE FLEXIBILITY IN THE AWARDING OF COURSE CREDITS; AND TO ALLOW A PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT TO DEVELOP AND IMPLEMENT A PLAN THAT ENABLES A STUDENT TO EARN COURSE CREDITS BY DEMONSTRATING SUBJECT MATTER COMPETENCY

Summary: Allows a school district to develop plans for the issue of high school course credit based on demonstration of competency in a subject without completing hours of classroom instruction.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Douglas (R) Alma

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee

HB1461 TO EXPAND THE NUMBER OF PRIVATE SCHOOLS ELIGIBLE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE SUCCEED SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM

Summary: Expands eligibility for private schools that have not earned accreditation to receive a voucher for students on an IEP.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Carlton Wing (R) North Little Rock

Status: This bill passed the Senate this week and now heads to the Governor's desk.

HB1474 CONCERNING THE PARTICIPATION OF HOME-SCHOOLED STUDENTS IN INTERSCHOLASTIC ACTIVITIES.

Summary: Authorizes home-school students to receive approval to participate in interscholastic activities of public schools of a district in which the student does not reside.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Mark Lowrey (R) Maumelle

Status: This bill has been amended and re-referred to the House Education Committee.

HB1509 TO CREATE THE SUDDEN CARDIAC ARREST PREVENTION ACT

Summary: Requires school districts to develop procedures for training staff in first aid technique related to sudden cardiac arrest, in conjunction with the Dept. of Health; requires coaches to receive professional development.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Greg Leding (D) Fayetteville

Status: This bill passed the House Education Committee this week and heads to the full House for consideration.

HB1516 CONCERNING SCHOOL NURSING; TO ESTABLISH SCHOOL NURSE-TO-STUDENT RATIOS; AND TO REQUIRE AN ANNUAL SCHOOL NURSE SURVEY.

Summary: Requires at least one school nurse at each public school campus, encourages higher nurse-to-student ratio for school districts, and authorizes use of national school lunch categorical funds to maintain those ratios.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Andy Mayberry (R) Hensley

Status: This bill failed to pass the House Education Committee this week.

SB274 TO REVISE THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH A PUBLIC SCHOOL OR PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT THAT HAS BEEN TAKEN OVER BY THE STATE FOR BEING IN ACADEMIC DISTRESS CAN BE RETURNED TO LOCAL CONTROL; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY

Summary: Provides the State Board of Education with the authority to return a district to local control, or deny return to local control, based on the best interest of the school or the district.  Deletes requirement that "all" issues be resolved.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Joyce Elliott (D) Little Rock

Status: This bill has been referred to the Senate Education Committee

SB287 TO AMEND PROVISIONS OF THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING SCHOOL ELECTIONS

Summary: This is a shell bill.  The content will likely be amended into the bill at a later date.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bart Hester (R) Cave Springs

Status: Referred to Senate Education Committee

SB303 TO ESTABLISH ENHANCED TRANSPORTATION FUNDING FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICTS; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY

Summary: Distributes enhanced transportation funding to certain school districts for the 2016-17 school year, in various amounts of up to $76,273

Bill Sponsor: Sen. Eddie Cheatham (D) Crossett

Status: This bill passed the Senate this week and heads to the House Education Committee.

SB308 TO GRANT PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS A RIGHT OF ACCESS TO UNUSED OR UNDERUTILIZED PUBLIC SCHOOL FACILITIES.

Summary: Grants public charter schools access to unused or underutilized facilities of public schools; creates a leasing process by which a charter school may lease such facilities.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Alan Clark (R) Lonsdale

Status: This bill passed the Senate Education Committee and full Senate this week. It will now head to the House Education Committee for consideration.

SB319 AN ACT FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION - DIVISION OF PUBLIC SCHOOL ACADEMIC FACILITIES AND TRANSPORTATION - FOR FUND TRANSFER FOR USE IN PROGRAMS GENERAL IMPROVEMENT APPROPRIATION

Summary: Appropriates $100 million to the Dept. of Education-Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation from General Improvement Funds for grants.

Bill sponsor: Joint Budget Committee

Status: This bill is now law.  It is Act 319.

SB321 AN ACT FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION - VARIOUS CAPITAL PROJECTS APPROPRIATION

Summary: Appropriates $10 million to the Dept. of Education from the General Improvement Fund for various capital projects.

Bill sponsor: Joint Budget Committee

Status: This bill passed the House and Senate and is now Act 220.

SB328 TO REQUIRE A PERSON TO APPLY FOR A K-6 TEACHING LICENSE OR A SPECIAL EDUCATION K-12 TEACHING LICENSE TO SUCCESSFULLY PASS A STAND-ALONE READING TEST AND A MULTI-SUBJECT TEST AS A CONDITION OF LICENSURE

Summary: Requires the State Board of Education to test applicants for first-time licensure for elementary education K-6 and for special education K-12, in subject matter content, pedagogy, and knowledge of beginning reading instruction.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Alan Clark (R) Lonsdale

Status: This bill passed the House Education Committee this week.

HB1517  CONCERNING SCHOOL NURSING AND TO MODIFY THE REQUIREMENTS FOR A SCHOOL NURSE

Summary: Requires school districts to use a school nursing performance evaluation rubric developed by the Department of Education when conducting annual evaluations of school nurses; encourages minimum standards for school nurse supervisors.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Andy Mayberry (R) Hensley

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee

HB1523 CONCERNING THE TRAINING OF MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF A PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT

Summary: Requires a vacancy to occur on a school district board if a board member fails to receive the mandatory six hours of training each year, unless the failure is due to military service or a serious medical condition.

Bill sponsor: Rep. James Sturch (R) Batesville

Status: This bill passed the full House this week and heads to the Senate Education Committee.

HB1539 TO REQUIRE THE PASSAGE OF THE CIVICS PORTION OF THE NATURALIZATION TEST USED BY UNITED STATES CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES BEFORE A STUDENT MAY RECEIVE A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA OR HIGH SCHOOL EQUIVALENCY DIPLOMA

Summary: Would require high school students pass a civics test identical to the civics portion of the naturalization test used by US Citizenship and Immigration Services in order to receive a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Bruce Cozart (R) Hot Springs

Status: This bill passed the House this week and heads to the Senate Education Committee.

HB1552 TO ALTER THE REQUIREMENTS FOR A LIFETIME TEACHING LICENSE

Summary: Allows teachers who have retired, eligible for a life time teacher's license; repeals professional development hour requirements for lifetime teaching license holders.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Ron McNair (R) Alpena

Status: This bill passed the House Education Committee and has passed the House.  It now heads to the Senate Education Committee for consideration.

HB1567  TO MAKE FOSTER CHILDREN ELIGIBLE FOR A SCHOLARSHIP IN THE SUCCEED SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY

Summary: This bill seeks to expand the voucher program called the 'Succeed Scholarship Program' to include children in foster care to be eligible to take public funds into private, unaccountable schools.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Kim Hammer (R) Benton

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee.

HB1575 TO LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF FUND BALANCES A SCHOOL DISTRICT MAY MAINTAIN

Summary:  Establishes a maximum net legal balance for public schools of 20% of the public school district's current year net legal balance revenues, and requires schools exceeding that balance to transfer the excess funds to the school's building fund.

Bill sponsor:  Rep. Mark Lowery (R) Maumelle

Status: Referred to House Education Committee

HB1576 TO AMEND PROVISIONS OF THE ACADEMIC FACILITIES PARTNERSHIP PROGRAM CONCERNING APPROVED BUT UNFUNDED NEW CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS.

Summary: Requires a school district construction project that is approved but not funded during a funding cycle have its approval and priority carried over into subsequent funding cycles until it is funded.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Douglas (R) Alma

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee

HB1579 TO AMEND PROVISIONS OF THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL EDUCATORS AND EMPLOYEES.

Summary: Authorizes the state, for purposes of educational licensing, to submit fingerprint records to the federal Next Generation Identification system and to participate in programs that provide notifications of arrest subsequent to background checks.

Bill sponsor: Rep. DeAnn Vaught (R) Horatio

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee

HB1583 TO CREATE RECALL ELECTIONS FOR MEMBERS OF SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARDS OF DIRECTORS; AND TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARDS OF DIRECTORS.

Summary: This bill seeks to create a process for holding a recall election for school board members; establishes requirements for a petition to call such an election, including the signatures of 35% of the office's qualified electors.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Jim Dotson (R) Bentonville

Status: This bill has been referred to the House Education Committee.

SB329 TO RAISE THE PRICE THRESHOLD FOR THE PURCHASE OF COMMODITIES THAT SCHOOL DISTRICTS MUST PROCURE BY SOLICITING BIDS; AND TO PROVIDE FOR ANNUAL ADJUSTMENTS IN THE PURCHASE PRICE THRESHOLD BASED ON INFLATION

Summary: Increases the threshold for school district commodity purchases that require solicitation of bids from $10K to $20K; requires the Education Commissioner to adjust the amount annually according to the change in the Consumer Price Index.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Alan Clark (R) Lonsdale

Status: This bill has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.

SB 337 TO REPEAL THE ACADEMIC FACILITIES EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES PROGRAM.

Summary: Repeals the Academic Facilities Extraordinary Circumstances Program, which allowed state funds to be allocated to public school districts and facilities for facility repair and maintenance that might not otherwise be eligible to receive state funding.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bart Hester (R) Cave Springs

Status: This bill passed the Senate this week and heads to the House Education Committee.

HB1589 CONCERNING THE APPLICABILITY OF CERTAIN ETHICS LAWS TO MEMBERS OF SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARDS OF DIRECTORS; AND AMENDING PORTIONS OF ARKANSAS LAW RESULTING FROM INITIATED ACT 1 OF 1988

Summary: Includes school board members in the ethics law under the definition of public official.  Prohibits legislators who are members of a school board from appearing for compensation on behalf of the board.

Bill sponsor: Rep. DeAnn Vaught (R) Horatio

Status: This bill passed the full House this week and now heads to the Senate.

HB1591 TO AMEND THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING THE PROFESSIONAL LICENSURE STANDARDS BOARD

Summary: Expands the professional Licensing Standards Board membership, makes various changes to the Board's duties with regard to teacher education programs and teacher licensure

Bill sponsor: Rep. DeAnn Vaught (R) Horatio

Status: Referred to House Education Committee

HB1597 AN ACT FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND ITS VARIOUS DIVISIONS REAPPROPRIATION

Summary: Reappropriates funds to the Department of Education from various funds for grant payments, initiatives, operations, infrastructure maintenance, archiving, and other various projects.

Bill sponsor: Joint Budget Committee

Status: This bill has been referred to the Joint Budget Committee.

HB1607 TO LIMIT THE USE OF AN ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER'S SCORE ON A STATE-MANDATED ASSESSMENT FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL AND PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT ACCOUNTABILITY PURPOSES

Summary: Changes how state-mandated assessment scores for English language learner students are counted for growth or achievement purposes in school accountability ratings, depending on the amount of the student has been enrolled in the US.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Jana Della Rosa (R) Rogers

Status: Referred to House Education Committee

HB1608 CONCERNING THE ACCOUNTABILITY SYSTEM DEVELOPED BY THE STATE OF ARKANSAS UNDER THE EVERY STUDENT SUCCEEDS ACT

Summary: Establishes specific requirements and criteria for any state accountability system for schools grades K-12

Bill sponsor: Rep. Jana Della Rosa (R) Rogers

Status: Referred to House Education Committee

HB1610 TO PROVIDE ARKANSAS BETTER CHANCE PROGRAMS LOCATED WITHIN A SCHOOL DISTRICT FUNDING EQUAL TO THE FOUNDATION FUNDING AMOUNT FOR EACH EARLY GRADUATE OF THE PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT

Summary: Establishes extra funding in the amount equal to a student's foundation funding amount to be provided to the local Better Chance early childhood program for each student who graduates early, before grade 12.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Clarke Tucker (D) Little Rock

Status: Referred to House Education Committee

HB1611 CONCERNING THE BASIC LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Summary: Repeals the $25 per day fine for violation of the rule requiring English to be the basic language of instruction in public schools.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Clarke Tucker (D) Little Rock

Status: Referred to House Education Committee

HB1612  TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING REQUIRED NOTIFICATIONS TO A PROSECUTING AUTHORITY REGARDING A STUDENT'S UNEXCUSED ABSENCES

Summary: Authorizes school districts or adult education programs to notify the prosecuting authority when a student exceeds 50 percent of unexcused absences allowed, rather than a mandatory notification when the student exceeds 100 percent.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Laurie Rushing (R) Hot Springs

Status: Referred to the House Education Committee.

HB1621 TO CHANGE THE DATE OF THE ANNUAL SCHOOL ELECTION

Summary: Allows the date of annual school elections to be on the date of the preferential primary election.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Mark Lowery (R) Maumelle

Status: Referred to House Education Committee

HB1627 TO AMEND PROVISIONS OF THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENT ATTENDANCE

Summary: Repeals the mandatory requirement that students in grades 9 through 12 physically attend a full school day consisting of 350 minutes of planned instructional time each day.

Bill sponsor: Rep. James Sturch (R) Batesville

Status: Referred to House Education Committee

HB1632  TO REQUIRE VERIFICATION OF INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THE PETITION OR NOTICE OF WRITE-IN CANDIDACY OF A CANDIDATE FOR A POSITION ON THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF A PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT

Summary: Requires that a candidate petition for write-in status as a candidate for school board of directors have their information verified by the county clerk before their petition is accepted.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Douglas (R) Alma

Status: Referred to House Education Committee

HB1640  TO ALLOW A STUDENT TO CHOOSE IN WHICH GRADE TO TAKE THE ACT UNDER THE VOLUNTARY UNIVERSAL ACT ASSESSMENT PROGRAM

Summary: Authorizes the ACT Assessment Program to provide students with the opportunity to take the ACT Assessment in grade 12.  Requires the district to continue to allow students to choose to take the ACT in grade 10 or 11.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Fred Allen (D) Little Rock

Status: Referred to House Education Committee

HB1646 TO AMEND VARIOUS PROVISIONS OF THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING PUBLIC EDUCATION

Summary: Makes various changes in public education provisions, including repeal of sections that define the structure of the Dept. of Education and sections setting student progress tracking plan requirements; establishes an unsafe School Choice Program.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Bruce Cozart (R) Hot Springs

Status: Referred to House Education Committee

HB1648 TO AMEND PROVISIONS OF THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING PUBLIC SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY

Summary: Repeals accreditation reviews for public schools every 4 years, instead requiring such reviews to happen for schools identified as being at high risk of failing to meet the standards; amends reporting requirements for findings of such reviews.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Douglas (R) Alma

Status: Referred to House Education Committee

HB1671 TO GIVE CHARTER SCHOOLS AUTHORITY TO WEIGHT ADMISSION LOTTERIES AT THEIR DISCRETION.

Summary: Authorizes charter schools to weight admissions lotteries in favor of national school lunch act eligible students, English language learners, students with disabilities and students who are currently enrolled in schools classified as being in academic distress.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Clarke Tucker (D) Little Rock

Status: This bill has just been filed and has not yet been assigned to a committee.

HB1672 CONCERNING ADMISSIONS POLICIES OF CHARTER SCHOOLS; AND TO ALIGN CHARTER SCHOOL ADMISSIONS REQUIREMENTS FOR A STUDENT WHO HAS BEEN EXPELLED FROM ANOTHER SCHOOL DISTRICT WITH ADMISSIONS REQUIREMENTS FOR SCHOOL DISTRICTS.

Summary: Requires the process for a charter school's exclusion of a student who has been expelled from another public school district to be the same as the process for public schools.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Clarke Tucker (D) Little Rock

Status: This bill has just been filed and has not yet been assigned to a committee.

HB1673 CONCERNING APPLICATIONS FOR OR AMENDMENTS OF PUBLIC CHARTERS UNDER THE ARKANSAS QUALITY CHARTER SCHOOLS ACT OF 2013.

Summary: Prohibits an application for a new charter school or an amendment to an existing charter from being approved if the charter is to be located in a district that is currently under the authority of the State Board or Commissioner of Education.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Clarke Tucker (D) Little Rock

Status: This bill has just been filed and has not yet been assigned to a committee.

HB1674 TO CREATE A COMMUNITY PUBLIC EDUCATION BOARD.

Summary: Authorizes the creation of community public education boards when at least 10% of a district's eligible students are enrolled in public charter schools; authorizes boards to review and reverse any authorizing decisions of the charter school panel.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Clarke Tucker (D) Little Rock

Status: This bill has just been filed and has not yet been assigned to a committee.

SB371 TO AMEND PROVISIONS OF THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING PUBLIC SCHOOL INTER-DISTRICT STUDENT TRANSFERS

Summary: Allows a child of a parent who relocates within the state due to the parent's mobilization as an Armed Forces members to attend school in either district; restricts prohibitions on student transfers to schools currently under desegregation orders.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Alan Clark (R) Londsdale  

Status: This bill is on the agenda in the Senate Education Committee.

SB372  TO AMEND PROVISIONS OF THE PUBLIC SCHOOL CHOICE ACT OF 2015; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY

Summary: Requires that in order for a school to exempt itself from transfers under the School Choice Act, the district submit proof that a desegregation order is still active and provide specific language the district believes limits its participation.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Alan Clark (R) Londsdale 

Status: This bill is on the agenda in the Senate Education Committee.

SB423 TO AMEND PROVISIONS IN THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING CAREER AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION

Summary: Requires the Department of Career Education to develop a list of third-party, industry-recognized technical skills assessments that it has reviewed and approved for use.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Uvalde Lindsey (D) Fayetteville

Status: This bill has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.

SB437 TO REQUIRE LEGISLATIVE REVIEW OF EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITY ORGANIZATIONS THAT RECEIVE FUNDS FROM A PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT AS A CONDITION OF RECEIVING THOSE FUNDS

Summary: Makes any extracurricular activity organization subject to annual audit and review by Legislative Audit and the Legislative Council as a condition of the receipt of public funds.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (R) Little Rock

Status: This bill has just been filed and not assigned to a committee at this time.

Retirement bills

ATRS Package Bills are as Follows:

SB141 TO MODIFY THE FINAL AVERAGE SALARY CALCULATION METHOD UNDER THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Adjusts the anti-spiking formula used to calculate retirement benefits. The bill is designed to create more fairness in calculating the benefit formula.  The bill seeks to curb large benefit increases resulting from large salary increases among the highest earners, such as superintendents.  Most educators will not be impacted by this bill.

Bill sponsor: Sen. John Cooper (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee

SB142 TO PROVIDE FOR AN EMPLOYEE EVALUATION OF AN INTERNAL AUDITOR OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM.

Summary: Allows the ATRS Board Audit Committee to perform the annual evaluation of Internal Auditor.

Bill sponsor: Sen. John Cooper (R)

Status: Act 127 of 2017

SB184  AN ACT TO MODIFY THE METHOD USED TO SET THE TEACHER DEFERRED RETIREMENT OPTION PLAN INTEREST RATE; TO ALLOW BALANCE TRANSFERS BETWEEN RECIPROCAL SYSTEMS; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Adjusts T-Drop interest rates and the authorization of transfers of Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) balances between reciprocal retirement systems with varying DROP periods. The bill is designed to encourage educators to continue working and delay retirement while participating in two DROP plans.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bart Hester (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee

SB185  TO MODIFY BUYOUT PLANS FOR INACTIVE MEMBERS OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: CASH program modifications and expansions and CASH program benefit designation for certain inactive vested members who are not presently working and have fewer than 15 years of service credit. This is not mandatory, but an option for the board to protect the financial strength of the system and benefit career educators.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bart Hester (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee

SB186 TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE ADJUSTMENT OF THE MULTIPLIER RATE UNDER THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Benefit multiplier adjustment for future service credit. Multipliers which have already been earned by an educator will not be impacted. Once a member has earned a multiplier, the law prevents the multiplier from being taken away.  The board may modify the multipliers on future years if the system is below a 30 year amortization, but is not required to do so.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bart Hester (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee

SB187  TO AMEND THE LAW ON CONTRIBUTION RATE ADJUSTMENTS BY THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; TO PERMIT CONTRIBUTION RATE ADJUSTMENTS BASED ON ACTUARIAL SOUNDNESS; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: To allow the employee contribution rate to be adjusted, if needed. The bill is designed to give the board the ability to reduce the amortization period for the retirement system for the financial strength and long term health of the system.  The law makes adjustments permissive for the board below a 30 year amortization period.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bart Hester (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee

SB192  TO ALLOW MEMBERS WITH RECIPROCAL SERVICE TO RETIRE UPON A DETERMINATION OF DISABILITY; TO AMEND DISABILITY RETIREMENT PROCEDURES; TO ENCOURAGE DISABILITY RETIREES TO RETURN TO EMPLOYMENT; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Disability retirees allowed to file another disability application with ATRS if

Social Security denies disability benefits; disability retirees may return to work full-time/part-time, revert to last benefit if unable to continue working; disability retirement to include reciprocal service credit for vesting purposes.  The bill does four things. First it will help prevent a disability retiree's loss of ATRS disability by allowing a review by the ATRS' medical committee within three months of disability benefits ceasing due to the lack of a Social Security Administration favorable disability determination letter. Second, the bill would allow a disability retiree to work and also receive monthly disability benefits if he or she works less than forty days during a fiscal year or works more than 40 days but the work is substantially different than the work the member did when retiring because of disability and has a computed salary that is less than the final average salary used to compute the monthly disability benefit. Third, the bill encourages a disability retiree to try to return to work on a full time basis by not exposing the educator to a loss of income through COLA's during the time the educator returns to work. Fourth, this bill would also recognize all reciprocal service credit with another Arkansas public retirement system to be counted for vesting purposes for disability retirement.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Eddie Cheatham (D)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee

SB193  TO PROVIDE SERVICE CREDIT FOR UNUSED SICK LEAVE TO CERTAIN MEMBERS OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Accrued sick leave to count as service credit if death of an active member occurs.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Eddie Cheatham (D)

Status: Signed by the Governor, now Act 200 of 2017.

SB194   TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE DETERMINATION OF SURVIVOR BENEFIT ELIGIBILITY UNDER THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; TO PRORATE CERTAIN SURVIVOR BENEFITS; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Allows survivor benefits to use reciprocal service credit for vesting purposes, prorate benefits in correlation of years of service, and allow a 6-month period after a survivor application is filed to submit all requested documents to ATRS.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Eddie Cheatham (D)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

SB203  TO PROHIBIT THE INCLUSION OF TERMS REQUIRING A MEMBER'S RETIREMENT FROM THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM IN CONTRACT BUYOUT PLANS; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Employer early separation incentive programs may not compel a member to file for retirement with ATRS.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bill Sample (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

SB205 TO PROVIDE MEMBERS OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM WITH THE OPTION TO WAIVE CONCURRENT SERVICE CREDIT; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Allows members with concurrent reciprocal service to waive ATRS service credit and choose the other system. Presently the law requires that persons with concurrent service opt-in to ATRS.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bill Sample (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

SB218  TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE MODIFICATION OF AN EMPLOYER'S CONTRIBUTION RATE UNDER THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Modifies the employer contribution rate to allow an adjustment even if ATRS is below a 30 year amortization period, if needed. The bill is designed to give the board the ability to reduce the amortization period for the retirement system for the financial strength and long term health of the system.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

SB233   TO PROHIBIT PENSION ADVANCES UNDER THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Protects members by prohibiting pension advance companies from obtaining a retiree's benefit to repay a loan.

Bill sponsor: Sen. R Caldwell (R)

Status: Signed by the Governor, now Act 199 of 2017.

HB1286    TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING EARLY VOLUNTARY RETIREMENT REDUCTIONS UNDER THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Provides authority for ATRS to adjust early voluntary retirement reductions and early T-DROP participation reductions. This bill would allow the board the ability to protect the actuarial soundness of the system and place more of the costs of T-DROP on people who benefit from the program.  The bill does not impact any current T-DROP participants.

Bill sponsor: Rep. J Rye (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

HB1287   TO PROVIDE CERTAIN EMPLOYERS WITH THE OPTION TO PAY A SURCHARGE FOR OUTSOURCED EMPLOYEES IN LIEU OF MEMBERSHIP IN THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Allows ATRS employers that outsource a service common to the normal daily operation of the employer to choose whether to make outsourced employees become members of ATRS or alternatively, to pay a surcharge on the outsourced employees' salaries. AEA understands that there is the possibility that the bill will be amended for the purpose of permitting educators working with the Department of Youth Services to participate in ATRS on the same basis as any other educator.

Bill sponsor: Rep. J Rye (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

HB1304    TO AMEND THE DEFINITION OF "ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM"; TO DEFINE "COVERED EMPLOYER"; TO AMEND THE REQUIREMENTS FOR VOLUNTARY RETIREMENT; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Makes minor changes in the wording of existing laws to clarify language and intent of laws affecting ATRS while not making changes to how laws are used or implemented.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Maddox (R)

Status: Submitted to the Governor.

HB1305   TO ALLOW MEMBERS OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM TO DESIGNATE ONE OR MORE RESIDUAL BENEFICIARIES; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Allows spousal survivor benefit rights to be redirected by member, if specifically designated by the member to another person.  Currently the law would pass retirement automatically to a surviving spouse.  The law now permits the educator to designate another beneficiary if they choose.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Maddox (R)

Status: Signed by the Governor, now Act 243 of 2017.

HB1365 TO AMEND THE LAW ON CONTRIBUTIONS MADE TO THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM FOR SETTLEMENTS AND JUDGMENTS; TO ALLOW THE PURCHASE OF SALARY OR SERVICE CREDIT USING ACTUARIAL COSTS; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Allows settlement agreements to include purchased annuity, discontinue adding settlement amounts to member, and can add air time or value of future benefits.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Coleman (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

HB1373  TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE APPLICATION AND ADJUSTMENT OF BENEFIT STIPENDS UNDER THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Allows benefit stipend adjustments and removal from benefit base, if needed. This bill permits greater flexibility for the board, composed of educators, to make adjustments to the stipend to preserve the long term financial strength of the retirement system.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Gary Deffenbaugh (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

HB1374   TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE COMPOUNDED COST OF LIVING ADJUSTMENT UNDER THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Allows the reversal of the 2009 compounding of the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), if needed.  The bill is proposed to maintain the financial strength of the retirement system and has provisions to prevent the reduction of benefits to any educator.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Gary Deffenbaugh (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

Non ATRS Package Bills are as Follows:

HB1290  TO REQUIRE THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM TO CORRECT AN ERROR THAT UNDERSTATES THE SERVICE CREDIT OF A MEMBER; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY.

Summary: Protects educators against clerical errors by an employer or the retirement system which would deprive them from receiving retirement credit for their years of service.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Tosh (R)

Status: Signed by the Governor, now Act 241 of 2017.

HB1327   TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM.

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Doug House (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

HB1328   TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE INVESTMENT PRACTICES OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM.

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Doug House (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

HB1329  TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING BENEFIT PAYMENTS UNDER THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM.

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Doug House (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

HB1330  TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE ACCOUNTING AND AUDITING PRACTICES OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM.

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Doug House (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

HB1333  TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM.

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Doug House (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

HB1336  TO PROVIDE FOR THE FORFEITURE OF BENEFITS UNDER A PUBLIC RETIREMENT SYSTEM BY CERTAIN PERSONS.

Summary: Would restrict earned retirement benefits to a member upon conviction of certain felony offenses during the time a member served as a governmental official.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Tosh (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

HB1355  TO MAKE TECHNICAL CORRECTIONS TO TITLE 24 OF THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING RETIREMENT AND PENSIONS.

Summary: HB1355 is merely a technical corrections bill which corrects grammatical errors and updates archaic language but has no material impact on the operations of ATRS.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Matthew Shepherd (R)

Status: Signed by the Governor, now Act 265 of 2017.

SB11  TO PROHIBIT CERTAIN TRANSACTIONS BY PUBLIC EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT SYSTEMS.  

Summary: This bill prohibits business dealings with state pension systems with any entity adverse to the interests of the state of Israel.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Bart Hester (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

SB212  TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM.  

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bart Hester (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

SB215 TO AMEND THE LAW TO FACILITATE RECOVERY OF FUNDS BY PUBLIC RETIREMENT SYSTEMS.  

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bart Hester (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

SB217 TO REVISE THE LAW CONCERNING THE ARKANSAS PUBLIC EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM; AND TO REVISE THE LAW CONCERNING RETIREMENT AND PENSIONS.

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bart Hester (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

SB220  TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING STATE-SUPPORTED RETIREMENT SYSTEMS.

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bill Sample (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

SB221  TO MODIFY THE LAW CONCERNING STATE EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT.

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Bill Sample (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.

SB228  TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING THE EMPLOYMENT OF RETIRED MEMBERS OF THE ARKANSAS TEACHER RETIREMENT SYSTEM.

Summary: This is a shell bill with no substantive legislation included and no action taken. It is believed that Senator Irvin would like to encourage retired educators to re-enter the classroom without fear of compromising or complicating their retirement benefits.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Missy Irvin (R)

Status: Referred to Joint Retirement Committee.