SUMMARY OF PUBLIC EDUCATION RELATED LEGISLATION: 2017 REGULAR SESSION

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 sought 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: Died upon adjournment.  AEA met with the bill sponsor to express significant concerns with the proposal.  The bill sponsor chose not to advance the bill. 

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:  Died upon adjournment. 

HB1222: THE ARKANSAS PARENTAL EMPOWERMENT FOR EDUCATION CHOICE ACT OF 2017

Summary: Sought to create 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: Failed. This bill was defeated by the efforts of AEA members in coalition with other education partners. 

SB746 TO ESTABLISH THE PARENTAL CHOICE PILOT PROGRAM

Summary: Sought to create 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. This was effectively a voucher bill and largely mirrored the troubling HB1222 which failed to pass the House earlier in the legislative session.

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

Status: Failed. This bill was defeated by the efforts of AEA members working in coalition with other public education partners.

HB1820 CONCERNING SCHOOL DISTRICT WAIVERS; TO REQUIRE THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION TO GRANT A SCHOOL DISTRICT WAIVER PETITION IF AN OPEN-ENROLLMENT PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL DRAWING STUDENTS FROM THE SCHOOL DISTRICT WAS GRANTED A WAIVER

Summary: This was an extremely problematic bill that sought to rapidly approve waivers from educational standards through the State Board of Education.  This bill would have effectively expanded the troubling Act1240 of 2015 law that allows teacher certification, class size and other critical educational standards to be waived. 

Bill sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Douglas (R) Alma

Status:  Died upon adjournmentAEA met with the bill sponsor about the multitude of problems that Act 1240 had encountered and pointed out the additional problems that HB1820 would cause while solving none of the problems that have arisen as a result of the implantation of the current law.  The bill sponsor chose not advance the bill.  Stopping this bill represents an important effort to stem the erosion of educational standards in public education.

HB1056 TO ALLOW THE SUPERINTENDENT OF A STUDENT'S RESIDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT TO WAIVE THE REQUIREMENT THAT THE STUDENT ATTEND PUBLIC SCHOOL FOR ONE (1) ACADEMIC YEAR TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR A SUCCEED SCHOLARSHIP

Bill sponsor: Rep. Mark Lowery (R) Maumelle

Summary:  Removes the requirement that a child must attend a public school for a year prior to becoming eligible for the Succeed Scholarship voucher. Parents would still be required to waive their child’s federal civil rights protections under IDEA. 

Status: Passed. Now, Act 637 of 2017

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 under the new federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which requires all states to develop their own accountability plan. 

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

Status: Passed.  Now, Act 744 of 2017. AEA President, Brenda Robinson, worked with Representative Della Rosa to provide AEA’s perspective on this legislation to ensure that the state ESSA plan incorporates the needs of students and educators. 

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

Summary: Increases the salaries included in all steps of the Teacher Minimum Compensation Schedule by $400 in the both 2018 and 2019.

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

Status:  Passed. Now, Act 246 of 2017. This salary increase is the result of the educational adequacy recommendation made by a joint meeting of the House and Senate Education Committees in the fall of 2016.  AEA testified on behalf of members during the hearings to determine the committee’s recommendations and again when this bill was heard by the House Education Committee. 

SB549 TO EXTEND THE AMOUNT OF RECESS TIME REQUIRED FOR ELEMENTARY STUDENTS; AND TO AMEND THE AMOUNT OF INSTRUCTIONAL TIME REQUIRED FOR ELEMENTARY STUDENTS IN A SCHOOL DAY

Summary:  This bill directs the Department of Education to select 4 schools to participate in a pilot program that provides various amounts of extra weekly physical activity including unstructured play to students in grades K-6.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R) Branch

Status: Passed. Now, Act 1062 of 2017. AEA leadership worked closely with the bill sponsor, Senator Gary Stubblefield, to amend his bill to ensure that it could be piloted around the state and allow strategies for proper implementation to emerge.  With that guidance, this bill became a pilot program rather than an unworkable statewide mandate.

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

Summary: Amends various provisions of TESS.  It amends summative evaluations.  One overall rating is required for summative evaluations only.  This now means that no domain level ratings will be required.  All evidence contributes to one overall summative rating. The bill changes formative years to be defined as the 3 years when no summative evaluation is required. Focuses on professional growth plan goals and feedback should be based on approved goals.  Supports components are aligned system of professional learning opportunities that link professional growth plans and performance. Adds novice teacher support which is mentoring support for three years as a novice with no summative evaluation until the fourth year. Removes pre and post observations. Allows school districts to incorporate peer observations and student feedback, if they desire, to contribute to a summative evaluation overall rating. Allows a teacher’s work on National Board Certified Teacher certification to be substituted for all of part of a summative evaluation requirement and/or rating. Creates a system that aligns professional support and learning opportunities to link teacher’s professional practice with support for targeted, personalized learning. Makes changes to intensive support status so that superintendents may recommend for termination, but it is not required. Removes the requirement for student growth measures to be a separate part of the summative evaluation rating and instead allows student growth to be part of the data submitted or artifacts considered in a summative rating.  Allows flexibility for districts to use multiple measures for choosing appropriate growth evidence.

Bill sponsor: DeAnn Vaught (R) Horatio

Status: Passed. Now, Act 295 of 2017.

SB570 TO REPEAL THE REQUIREMENT THAT A PUBLIC SCHOOL OR SCHOOL DISTRICT PROVIDE A DUTY-FREE LUNCH PERIOD FOR FULL-TIME NONEXEMPT CLASSIFIED EMPLOYEES

Summary: Repeals requirement to combine two 15 minute breaks for non-classified employees to receive a duty free lunch.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D) Little Rock 

Status: Passed. Now, Act 938 of 2017. AEA led the efforts to repeal this bill which had been inappropriately applied by a number of school districts harming many education support professionals across Arkansas.

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: Passed. Now, Act 173 of 2017.

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 a school district’s qualified electors sign a petition to do so.

Bill Sponsor: Rep. Mark McElroy (D) Tillar

Status: Passed. Now, Act 375 of 2017.

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:  Passed. Now, Act 344 of 2017. 

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: Passed. Now, Act 427 of 2017.

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:  Passed. Now, Act 246 of 2017.  

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: Passed. Now Act 398 of 2017. 

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:  Passed. Now, Act160 of 2017.

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:  Passed. Now, Act 298 of 2017.

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. Does not make substantive changes. 

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

Status: Passed. Now, Act 275 of 2017.

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: Passed. Now, Act 295 of 2017.

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: Passed. Now, Act 294 of 2017.

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: Passed. Now, Act 379 of 2017.

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: Passed. Now, Act 327 of 2017. 

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: Passed. Now, Act 319 of 2017.

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: Passed. Now, Act 220 of 2017. 

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: Passed. Now, Act 416 of 2017.

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: Passed. Now, Act 480 of 2017. 

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: Passed. Now, Act 445 of 2017.   

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. This bill was amended this week to exclude education programs for those in a state corrections facility, someone seeking a GED or a student on an IEP.

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

Status:  Passed. Now, Act 478 of 2017.  

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: Passed. Now, Act 449 of 2017.

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: Passed. Now, Act 541 of 2017.

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: Passed. Now, Act 592 of 2017. 

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: Passed. Now Act 542 of 2017. 

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

 

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: Passed. Now, Act 588 of 2017. 

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: Passed. Now, Act 564 of 2017. 

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: Passed. Now, Act 586 of 2017.  

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: Passed. Now, Act 601 of 2017.

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: Passed. Now Act 554 of 2017. 

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 was approved by the Governor this week and is now Act 709.

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:  Passed. Now, Act 666 of 2017. 

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: Passed. Now, Act 746 of 2017. 

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: Passed. Now, Act 765 of 2017.

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: Passed. Now, Act 681 of 2017. 

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: Passed. Now Act 744 of 2017.  

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: Passed. Now, Act 745 of 2017. 

HB1689 TO AMEND PROVISIONS CONCERNING PUBLIC SCHOOL FUNDING AND INDEBTEDNESS; TO AMEND FUNDING PROVISIONS CONCERNING PUBLIC EMPLOYEE HEALTH INSURANCE; AND TO AMEND PROVISIONS CONCERNING EDUCATION SERVICE COOPERATIVE FINANCING

Summary: Makes numerous changes to school funding and reporting provisions; authorizes an education cooperative to borrow from the revolving loan fund; includes minimum health insurance contribution in the definition of 'local contribution rate’.

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

Status: Passed. Now, Act 741 of 2017.  

HB1729 TO AMEND VARIOUS PROVISIONS OF THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING PUBLIC SCHOOL FUNDING AMOUNTS; AND TO DECLARE AN EMERGENCY

Summary: Increases school foundation funding amount by $67 to $6,713 per student for the 17/18 school year.  Increases the other per-student funding amounts.  Creates a table of enhanced transportation funding showing amounts by district. 

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

Status: Passed. Now, Act 743 of 2017. 

HB1905 CONCERNING DELAY OF OPENING OR EARLY RELEASE OF SCHOOL

Summary: Authorizes schools to delay school or release early due to contagious disease outbreak or utility outage. 

Bill sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Douglas (R) Alma 

Status: Passed. Now, Act 747 of 2017. 

HB2052 TO AMEND PROVISIONS OF THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING SCHOOLS OF INNOVATION

Summary: Requires schools seeking a 'school of innovation' designation to demonstrate implementation of research-based professional learning communities throughout the school. 

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

Status: Passed. Now, Act 871 of 2017.  

SB662 TO ALLOW CERTAIN YOUTH GROUPS TO USE PUBLIC SCHOOL BUILDINGS OR PROPERTY TO PROVIDE SERVICES AT TIMES OTHER THAN INSTRUCTIONAL TIME

Summary:  Requires schools to allow access during school hours for recruitment activities conducted by representatives of a youth group that is a patriotic organization, as defined in federal code, such as the Boy Scouts.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Jake Files (R) Ft. Smith

Status: Passed. Now, Act 1069 of 2017.

SB708 TO AMEND PROVISIONS OF THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING DYSLEXIA SCREENING AND INTERVENTION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS; AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES

Summary: Requires school districts to complete dyslexia screening of each student in grades K-2 by November 15 of each school year; requires districts to report on dyslexia intervention programs and their results on their websites by March 15 each year. 

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

Status: Passed. Now, Act 1039 of 2017. 

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:  Passed. Now, Act 934 of 2017.

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: Passed. Now, Act 834 of 2017. 

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: Passed. Now, Act 1044 of 2017.   

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: Passed. Now, Act 862 of 2017.  

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: Passed. Now, Act 872 of 2017. 

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

StatusPassed. Now, Act 1013 of 2017. 

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. It was amended to cap foster care student participation at 20 students. 

Bill sponsor: Rep. Kim Hammer (R) Benton

Status: Passed. Now Act 894 of 2017. 

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: Passed. Now, Act 1105 of 2017.

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: Passed. Now, Act 1124 of 2017. 

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: Passed.  Now, Act 991 of 2017.  

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: Passed. Now, Act 989 of 2017.   

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 or General Election beginning 2018. 

Bill sponsor: Rep. Mark Lowery (R) Maumelle

Status: Passed. Now, Act 910 of 2017. 

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: Passed. Now, Act 867 of 2017.  

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 or when the Dept. of Education deems necessary; amends reporting requirements for findings of such reviews.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Douglas (R) Alma

Status: Passed. Now, Act 869 of 2017. 

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: Passed. Now, Act 990 of 2017. 

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: Passed. Now, Act 1065 of 2017. 

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: Passed. Now, Act 1066 of 2017.

SB442 TO CLARIFIY THAT ALL PUBLIC SCHOOL BUILDINGS ARE EXEMPT FROM TAXATION

Summary: Specifies that all public school buildings, including those used by both public school districts and open-enrollment public charter schools, are exempt from taxation. 

Bill sponsor:  Sen. Jim Hendren (R) Gravette 

Status: Passed. Now, Act 943 of 2017.  

SB443 TO ALLOW A STUDENT TO RECEIVE HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION CREDIT FOR COMPLETING BASIC TRAINING IN THE MILITARY BEFORE GRADUATING FROM HIGH SCHOOL

Summary: Awards 2 units of career focused graduation credits to a student who enlists in the military in an early entry program and completes basic training. 

Bill sponsor: Sen. Trent Garner (R) El Dorado 

Status: Passed. Now Act 1064 of 2017. 

SB494 TO REQUIRE A PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT TO REPORT TO THE PARENT OR LEGAL GUARDIAN OF EACH STUDENT THE READING LEVEL OF THE STUDENT

Summary: Requires public school districts to make annual reports to parents of students in grades K-8 on the student's achievement level in reading.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Alan Clark (R) Lonsdale 

Status: Passed. Now Act 940 of 2017.  

SB502 TO CREATE THE RIGHT TO READ ACT

Summary: Creates a proficiency requirement in scientific reading instruction for teacher licensure, beginning in the 2021-2022 school year for elementary and 2022-23 for others, with related professional development beginning in the 2018-19 school year. 

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

Status: Passed. Now, Act 1063 of 2017.  

SB518 TO AMEND PROVISIONS OF THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING SPECIAL EDUCATION

Summary: Repeals provisions that governed the State Board of Education's responsibilities with regard to special needs students; requires all local educational agencies to ensure that all disabled children within their jurisdictions have educational access. 

Bill sponsor: Sen. Blake Johnson (R) Corning 

Status: Passed. Now, Act 874 of 2017. 

SB549 TO EXTEND THE AMOUNT OF RECESS TIME REQUIRED FOR ELEMENTARY STUDENTS; AND TO AMEND THE AMOUNT OF INSTRUCTIONAL TIME REQUIRED FOR ELEMENTARY STUDENTS IN A SCHOOL DAY

Summary:  Directs the Department of Education to select 4 schools to participate in a pilot program that provides various amounts of extra weekly physical activity including unstructured play to students in grades K-6. 

Bill sponsor: Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R) Branch

Status: Passed. Now, Act 1062 of 2017. 

SB555 TO MODIFY INCENTIVE BONUSES FOR NATIONAL BOARD FOR PROFESSIONAL TEACHING STANDARDS CERTIFICATION

Summary: Increases the annual incentive bonus to $5k for national board certification and limits the number of years it is paid to ten years.  Ties yearly incentive bonus dollars to employment in high-poverty schools/school districts. 

Bill sponsor: Sen. Alan Clark (R) Lonsdale 

Status: Passed. Now, Act 937 of 2017. 

SB570 TO REPEAL THE REQUIREMENT THAT A PUBLIC SCHOOL OR SCHOOL DISTRICT PROVIDE A DUTY-FREE LUNCH PERIOD FOR FULL-TIME NONEXEMPT CLASSIFIED EMPLOYEES

Summary: Repeals requirement to combine two 15 minute breaks for non-classified employees to receive a duty free lunch.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D) Little Rock 

Status: Passed. Now, Act 938 of 2017.

SB609 TO AMEND PROVISIONS OF TITLE 6 OF THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING DISCIPLINE OF STUDENTS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Summary: Prohibits school districts from use of out-of-school suspension or expulsion for students grade K-5, with exception for situations posing physical risk to the student or to others for serious disruption that cannot be otherwise addressed. 

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

Status: Passed. Now, Act 1059 of 2017. 

HB1925 TO AMEND PROVISIONS OF THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING PUBLIC SCHOOL ACADEMIC FACILITY REVIEW CONFERENCES

Summary: Increases from 60 to 120 days prior to the application deadline the period in which a district may request an academic review conference and have it scheduled within a 90 days of the request.  Makes changes to conference procedures. 

Bill sponsor: Rep. Charlotte Douglas (R) Alma 

Status: Passed. Now, Act 864 of 2017.

HB1929 TO AMEND PROVISIONS OF THE ARKANSAS CODE CONCERNING THE ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SCHOOL ACADEMIC FACILITIES

Summary: Revises membership of the Advisory Committee on Public School Academic Facilities and provides all members of the committee be appointed by the Commission for Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation. 

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

Status: Passed. Now, Act 801 of 2017. 

SB691 TO ADD TEACHERS IN KINDERGARTEN THROUGH GRADE SIX (K-6) AS TEACHERS ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE ADDITIONAL COMPENSATION FOR VOLUNTEERING TO TEACH MORE THAN THE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF STUDENTS PERMITTED

Summary: Provides that teachers for grades 5-12 are eligible to receive additional compensation for volunteering to teach more than the maximum number of students permitted per day.

Bill sponsor: Sen. Alan Clark (R) Lonsdale

Status:  Passed. Now, Act 1113 of 2017.

TEACHER RETIREMENT BILLS

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) Jonesboro

Status: Passed. Now, Act 611 of 2017.

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) Jonesboro

Status: Passed. Now, 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) Cave Springs

Status: Passed. Now, Act 1049 of 2017.

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) Cave Springs

Status: Passed. Now, Act 647 of 2017.

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 above an 18 year amortization period.

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

Status: Passed. Now, Act 551 of 2017.

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: Allows 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 bill includes language making it permissive for the ATRS board to make adjustments above an 18 year amortization period.

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

Status: Passed. Now, Act 550 of 2017.

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) Crossett

Status: Passed. Now, Act 549 of 2017.

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

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

Bill sponsor: Sen. Eddie Cheatham (D) Crossett 

Status: Passed. 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) Crossett

Status: Passed. Now, Act 505 of 2017.

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) Hot Springs

Status: Passed. Now, Act 503 of 2017.

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) Hot Springs

Status: Passed. Now, Act 612 of 2017.

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) Little Rock

Status: Passed. Now, Act 821 of 2017.

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. Ron Caldwell (R) Wynne

Status: Passed. 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. Johnny Rye (R) Trumann

Status: Passed. Now, Act 750 of 2017.

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. As reported last week, the bill has been 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. Johnny Rye (R) Trumann

Status: Passed. Now, Act 575 of 2017.

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. John Maddox (R) Mena

Status: Passed. Now, Act 293 of 2017.

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. John Maddox (R) Mena

Status: Passed. 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) Mountainburg

Status: Passed. Now, Act 463 of 2017.

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) Van Buren 

Status: Passed. Now, Act 782 of 2017.

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) Van Buren

Status: Passed. Now Act 780 of 2017.

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. Dwight Tosh (R) Jonesboro

Status: Passed. Now, Act 241 of 2017.

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

Summary:  The bill clarifies that a decision on whether to invest, not invest, or withdraw from investment the funds of the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System or an alternate retirement plan of the system shall not be based on a consideration that the location of the investment, fund, company, or any other type of investment vehicle is in the State of Israel. 

Bill sponsor: Rep. Doug House (R) North Little Rock

Status: Passed. Now, Act 767 of 2017.

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

Summary: This bill was heavily and significantly amended on Monday of this week.  Under the amendment, the bill operates like a "slayer statute" where a beneficiary is prohibited from receiving any benefit through an ATRS member or retirant upon conviction of the murder or wrongful death of the ATRS member or retirant.  The bill bans a person from receiving a benefit from ATRS after they have done harm to the educator. The bill has been amended to expand to include all the retirement systems.

Bill sponsor: Rep. Dwight Tosh (R) Jonesboro

Status: Passed. Now, Act 756 of 2017.

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

Summary: This is 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) El Dorado 

Status: Passed. Now, Act 265 of 2017.