On Wednesday, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a bill into law that will launch a universal school program and ban any teaching about sexuality before the fifth grade.
According to The Christian Post, the state Senate passed the Arkansas LEARNS Act on Tuesday by a vote of 26-8. Included in the plan is for the state to pass a universal school choice program by the 2025-2026 school year. Additionally, students who have disabilities, are facing homelessness, attended a failing school during the previous school year, or have parents who are active duty military are qualified to receive "Educational Freedom Accounts." vouchers for the 2023-2024 school year.
With the new law in place, Arkansas becomes the fifth state to have enacted universal school choice programs, joining Arizona, Iowa, Utah and West Virginia.
The bill contends that Critical Race Theory contradicts the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans discrimination on the basis of "race, color, religion, sex or national origin."
"The secretary shall amend, annul, or alter the rules, policies, materials, or communications that are considered prohibited indoctrination and that conflict with the principle of equal protection under the law," the measure reads.
The legislation also bans public school teachers from teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation or sharing sexually explicit materials with students before the fifth grade.
"A HISTORIC WIN for parents, teachers, and students that will set the education model for the nation, I'm ready to sign it into law tomorrow and end the failed status quo," Sanders tweeted Tuesday. "Every kid will soon have access to a quality education and path to a good paying job and better life, right here in Arkansas."
🚨 My education plan just PASSED WITH OVERWHELMING SUPPORT: 78-21 in the House and 26-8 in the Senate.— Sarah Huckabee Sanders (@SarahHuckabee) March 7, 2023
A HISTORIC WIN for parents, teachers, and students that will set the education model for the nation, I’m ready to sign it into law tomorrow and end the failed status quo.… https://t.co/6ZQc97vfF6
Carol Fleming, president of the Arkansas Education Association, argued that the bill was rushed, and parents and teachers did not get to discuss it before it was passed.
"The best decisions for our students are made with teachers and parents at the table. Educators have spent countless hours combing through the bill's 144 pages, and each time we come away with more questions than answers," Fleming said in a statement on Tuesday.
She also claimed that her requests to meet with the bill's author and the governor were ignored.
"If supporters of the bill are so confident about it, why are they trying to push it through so quickly without meaningful discussions?" she asked. "What are they afraid of, and what's in there that they don't want us to know?"
Meanwhile, Laurie Lee, chairman of Reform Alliance, which pushes for the "highest education options," celebrated the LEARNS Act as a step forward in the state's education system.
"For far too long, Arkansas has languished at the bottom of national education rankings, but that begins to change today," Lee wrote in a Tuesday statement.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Tiero
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.