LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Arkansas ‘LEARNS‘ bill will make changes to the state’s education system, impacting students with disabilities.
Executive Director of Disability Rights Arkansas Tom Masseau said a lot of components in the bill like school choice won’t work for students with disabilities.
“There’s mentions on transportation, vouchers, private schools, those are all great, but for a family and the students with disabilities, it doesn’t work for them,” Masseau said.
However, Laurie Lee, chair of The Reform Alliance, said the bill will give students with disabilities more ways to learn.
“It would allow their parents to find solutions that help better serve their specific needs,” she said.
Masseau said the ‘LEARNS’ bill focuses on investing in nontraditional schools, instead of helping fund special education services in public schools. He said this will hurt students who aren’t able to get to those specialized schools, whether that’s because of a lack of accessible transportation or the school not being required to accept all students.
“The public school still needs to serve students, and how are they going to be able to serve those students if they’re underfunded right now, with no additional funds?” Masseau said.
Lee said she thinks parents will feel empowered getting to take their children to a school that best fits them and that no school should be forced to help students they aren’t equipped to teach.
“No school should have to take a student that they can’t serve,” she said.
Masseau said he wants the state legislature to slow down the progression of the bill, so Disability Rights Arkansas and other groups can have more time to share their input on the bill.
The House Education Committee discussed the ‘LEARNS’ bill Tuesday.