Jim Hendren: Joins school voucher effort.
The Arkansas Senate
today approved, 22-5, a school voucher bill,
a pilot program that will provide payment to private schools for almost 700 students a year for four years.
The bill met fierce criticism from, among others, Sens. Linda Chesterfield and Joyce Elliott. Elliott decried the various attacks on public schools in a variety of legislation, whether from charter schools, vouchers or other issues. She said the governor had talked of a comprehensive study of approaches to education and she urged waiting for a comprehensive approach.
A significant new voice for the bill was the governor's nephew and floor leader, Sen. Jim Hendren. He said the bill had been approved by amendments in a way it wouldn't do damage to public education. He also said competition was good for anyone, including schools.
He also said the bill would limit loss of students to 1 percent of enrollment. He said that would be only 10 students in a 1000-student district. It would be more than 200 in Little Rock, however. Hendren said choice would be provided to those who can't afford it.;
He didn't address the lack of credentials for schools that receive the money and a lack of accountability and transparency.
The is called an education savings account bill. This is a misleading title that has led many in the public erroneously to believe beneficiaries are puttting money into the accounts. They are not. Tax credits are given to people who designate a contribution to nonprofit agencies that will distribute the money in support of students who apply for it. The pass-through sidesteps questions about spending public money on private schools.
Public school administrators have fought the bill — and their effort defeated it earlier in the House, where the bill now heads again.