Believe it or not, the Arkansas legislature is still reviewing and contemplating the LEARNS Act, Governor Sarah Sanders’s comprehensive education reform package.
(If you’re just reading the mainstream media, you would probably think the bill has already been “rammed” through the legislature. But it hasn’t, and it isn’t. In fact, the House Education Committee spent more than 9 hours deliberating on the bill yesterday, without taking a vote.)
As the bill has been working its way through the legislative process, there are some new concerns popping up, specifically from the Arkansas homeschool community, that the bill will somehow create new burdens or regulations on homeschool families. I’ve heard these concerns from many of you directly and I also have started to see them populate across social media.
For example, the Home School Legal Defense Association has also been disseminating some misinformation about what the LEARNS Act will mean for homeschoolers:
As a proud Arkansas homeschool alumnus (see photographic evidence below), Arkansas parent, and supporter of the LEARNS Act, I thought it was important to clarify some of these concerns. So let’s dive in.
Plain and simple, the LEARNS Act does not create any new requirements or burdens for Arkansas homeschoolers.
Also, contrary to HSLDA’s claims, the bill does not create education savings accounts for “every student” in Arkansas. It will only create these accounts for students who opt in. This is an important distinction.
Should Arkansas homeschoolers choose not to participate, absolutely nothing will change for them. Period.
If they do choose to opt in, they simply will be expected to take an annual assessment, just like every other participant in the program. These are not requirements unique to homeschoolers and they are 100% optional.
Additionally, the bill makes clear that the existing school attendance requirements in state law will remain intact. These are spelled out in Arkansas Code 6-18-201 which clearly lists homeschooling as a type of school that satisfies these requirements. Again, the LEARNS Act does not change these requirements whatsoever.
Quite frankly, as I see it, the homeschool community should be grateful for and enthusiastic about the LEARNS Act. When it becomes law, it will allow Arkansas homeschool families to recapture a significant portion of their tax dollars and use those funds towards tutors, textbooks, school supplies, and much more. For many homeschool families, this is much needed.
Governor Sarah Sanders recently spoke to homeschool students at the capitol as part of Homeschool Day. She was unequivocal in her remarks about her support for homeschool families.
And why did we have Homeschool Day, by the way? Because Governor Sanders signed an executive order declaring February 21st as “A Day to Recognize Home Schooling in Arkansas.”
In it, Governor Sanders declares “It is the right and responsibility of every family in Arkansas to direct the education of their children.”
This statement is consistent with all of her policy actions so far, which includes the LEARNS Act.
As I mentioned, I am personally a strong proponent of homeschooling in the state of Arkansas. It was an incredible experience for me and my sisters, through elementary school, and I would not trade those years for absolutely anything–especially the days I was able to complete my school assignments early and then go work with my dad in the afternoons. I can promise you, I learned a lot more than just reading, writing, and arithmetic on those days with my dad.
And I’m committed, as I know the Sanders administration is, to protecting that opportunity for Arkansas families.
After the LEARNS Act becomes law, there will be a lengthy process of implementing the rules. That is a process that Opportunity Arkansas has every intention of monitoring and being a part of–not because we distrust the Administration or the legislative champions of the LEARNS Act, but because we know how important homeschooling is for so many Arkansas families.
Educational freedom is serious business and the ability to homeschool your own kids is a foundational part of it. Thankfully, the LEARNS Act does nothing to erode homeschool rights. Instead, it gives Arkansas homeschoolers more resources, should they choose to accept them.
To read our comprehensive summary of the LEARNS Act — the only complete analysis available — click here.