The Governor’s LEARNS plan is right for Arkansas schools

by Kevin Tipton ([email protected]) 3,429 views 

Arkansas’ education system, along with our country, is seeking reform and in need of attention. Teachers feel undervalued, parents are weary, and many students are falling behind with reading, writing, math and communication skills.

Governor Sanders came into office promising to be a voice for those who think our education system needs a better path forward. With her new Arkansas LEARNS plan, she’s keeping this promise with the most impactful education reform in the country.

I am a school board member, a parent, and a Cabot High School graduate. This issue is personal to me and my family, so I’ve taken the time to examine each aspect of Arkansas LEARNS from top to bottom. Governor Sanders’ plan is exactly what schools need to improve curriculum, focus on workforce development, and create a positive shift in the Arkansas economy.

For years, our state has struggled to recruit and keep talented teachers. Pay has always been a big part of this issue; as we can’t expect to attract the best educators without offering the best salaries. Arkansas LEARNS tackles that issue head-on by drastically raising the starting teacher salary from $36,000 to $50,000, and giving every teacher a raise. This takes Arkansas from 48th in the nation for starting teacher pay to the top five.

As a business owner who has struggled with Arkansas’ ongoing worker shortage, I’m perhaps most excited about the new Career Ready Diploma within Arkansas LEARNS. That initiative will launch a dual diploma program in every Arkansas high school. This will provide curriculum improvement opportunities and partner local employers with students to help train the next generation of talent. Students will have a pathway to a high-paying job, right after graduation, right in their community.

Parents that are looking for more choices will now be able to find that here in Arkansas. Students will no longer be caught in failing school districts just because of where they live. Governor Sanders’ plan rolls out a new Education Freedom Account to allow families to enroll their children in whatever school is most appropriate, whether it be public, private, parochial, or homeschool.

When parents have the choice to customize their child’s education, traditional public schools rise to the challenge and compete to make themselves better. Along with any business, this competitive nature will drive success with these constant improvements taking place.

When I ran for the school board, I promised to make school safety my top priority. Arkansas LEARNS takes best practices from across the state, including from the Arkansas School Safety Commission’s expertly crafted recommendations, to put student safety over partisan politics. That includes placing law enforcement officers in every school in Arkansas, which will make students safer (regardless of what the “defund the police crowd“ claims).

Those are just a few of the highlights of Arkansas LEARNS. I encourage every parent, teacher, and voter to take a deeper look and read about the ways Governor Sanders plans to help the schools in our state. As someone who works every day to improve our public education system, I can tell you that Arkansas LEARNS is exactly what our state needs to take our education system to the top. I’m proud to endorse it and excited to see it pass into law.

Editor’s note: Kevin Tipton is the Cabot School Board Secretary. The opinions expressed are those of the author.