Written by Sophie Thibodeaux and Sophie Rossitto // Graphic by Wagner Valdez
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed an executive order concerning academic and financial plans in the state on Thursday, Jan. 19. This executive order aims to reduce inefficient spending and relieve administrative burdens on school districts, according to an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article on Jan. 20.
Sanders said she aims to create a more cohesive system in which each school district can apply to receive federal and state funding by submitting a single, unified application, starting in the 2024-25 budget cycle.
Under Sanders’ executive order, the Secretary of Education Jacob Oliva will review state laws and regulations concerning public schools and districts in Arkansas, according to a Jan. 19 report from television station THV11. He will then proceed to recommend to Sanders reforms based on what is needed. Oliva will also create a process for school districts to send feedback to his department about state laws, regulations and more.
Dr. Steve Breezeel, professor of political science, said the nature of this order is uncertain.
“I know that school funding is one of the biggest obstacles that public schools in Arkansas face,” Breezeel said “This is one of those things where you never know exactly until you actually see what the final product looks like.”
Dr. Kieth Williams, associate professor of education, said this order will bring a large number of changes.
“It may involve curriculum; it might involve methods of instruction, additional people to be involved in teaching reading, we just don’t know because she hasn’t released any information on that,” Williams said. “There needs to be something in it with teacher compensation. That’s going to be a major point.”
Williams also said Sanders added a caveat about accountability of teachers.
“It’s going to become a very sensitive issue in the ranks of all the professionals and teachers in the state because the variables that impact learning are many times overlooked by those who make the laws,” Williams said.
Dr. David Bangs, department chair of the graduate education program, discussed the specifics concerning teacher pay to watch for in this new education order from Sanders.
“No one disagrees that teachers should be paid more,” Bangs said. “No one disagrees that police officers should be paid more, but trying to define that money and pull that in is a whole different ball game. … Those salary schedules are put in with lanes, experience and education, and when you put that in, that’s a recurring expense every year for that district. No one’s going to dispute some of those things. You have to find a way to pay for it, and that’s where it gets difficult.”