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Arkansas Education Secretary gearing up for public hearings to develop LEARNS rules and regs

Arkansas Education Secretary Jacob Oliva is seen in this file photo.
Talk Business & Politics
Arkansas Education Secretary Jacob Oliva is seen in this file photo.

Arkansas Secretary of Education Jacob Oliva is ready to get into school halls, is preparing for a potential lawsuit, and gearing up for months of public hearings to flush out details of the recently enacted LEARNS Act, Gov. Sarah Sanders’ signature education reform package.

Appearing on this week’s edition of Talk Business & Politics and Capitol View, Oliva said the first formal public meetings to develop rules and regulations for the law will begin in less than two weeks and be a combination of in-person and hybrid sessions. He hopes to have regulations in place before the start of the next school year.

“Anytime we’re working on supporting and creating conditions to make sure those [educational] opportunities are even better, you have to act with urgency and make sure that we get it right. So there’s no shortage of work, which is exciting to me,” Oliva said. “As we navigate through this process we’re going to be as transparent and involve as many stakeholders to be involved in the process, to give as much feedback as they want.”

Some of the public hearings to gather input will be coordinated with the state’s 15 educational cooperatives, which will allow for regional meetings. Eventually, rules and regulations to implement the 145-page LEARNS Act will be presented to legislators for final sign-off, but that will be later this year after the regular session ends.

Oliva knows there are groups who are supportive of the governor’s signature education package, and he understands there will be many opponents who are ready to tackle a new fight on how to implement the law. He said he is interested in all viewpoints.

“I’ll sit down and meet with anybody. We may not always agree, but I firmly believe everybody that is strongly passionate about the topics of improving education have the same goal. And that’s doing what’s right for students. We might have different approaches or different ideas on how we get there, and that’s okay. But I’m always open and willing to meet with anybody, and listen to multiple perspectives and points of view,” he said.

Arkansas’ educational policy has been under court precedents outlined in the historic Lake View decision, and opponents of the LEARNS Act testified they see legal issues with the new law’s ability to provide an “adequate and equitable” education to students. Oliva said his agency is expecting litigation but won’t stop moving forward on rules and regs.

“If that does happen, we’ll stand behind navigating through that process, but we’re not going to slow down and wait for that,” he said.

You can watch his full interview in the video below.

This story comes from the staff of Talk Business & Politics, a content partner with KUAR News. You can hear the weekly program on Mondays at 6:06 p.m.