In his first State of the State address, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, proposed a $40 million expansion of the state’s prekindergarten program, the Arkansas Better Chance program, bringing its total funding up to $111 million. Children whose families earn up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for the program.
The new governor, who has not yet released his fiscal 2008 budget proposal, also called in the Jan. 10 speech for $19 million in extra school spending to help districts finance repairs, services for students in special education, and other priorities. Overall spending for K-12 in fiscal year 2007 was $1.76 billion.
“We’re not opposed to small and rural schools, they deserve a place just like the rest of our state does, but we’re not backing away from standards,” Gov. Beebe said.
In the area of teaching, the governor proposed a pilot program to test alternative pay for teachers, and establishment of a “traveling teacher” program, so that a number of rural schools can share educators qualified to teach subjects such as mathematics and science.
Mr. Beebe proposed providing $1,000 a year in scholarship money for up to four years to full-time college students whose families earn less than $25,000 a year. Money for part-time students would be prorated over a longer period.
He also proposed convening children’s advocates and educators to assess the best practices in after-school and summer school programs. He said state officials planned to conduct an assessment of technology resources in schools and would “formulate a timeline to ensure that every child has safe access to the online world.”
A version of this article appeared in the January 17, 2007 edition of Education Week