In case you missed this week's newspaper column, read below to see what's new in our district!
The upcoming Fiscal Session begins February 12.
With our local schools, as well as many other schools across the state closing their doors for severe weather recently, you may have been hearing about something called alternative methods of instruction or AMI.
The legislature has passed a few laws in recent years giving schools more options to make up time away from school, rather than simply extending the year into the summer. Alternative methods of instruction is the latest option.
Act 862 of 2017 allows a public school district and open-enrollment public charter school to develop a plan for alternative methods of instruction to be used on days when the superintendent closes school due to exceptional or emergency circumstances.
The legislation allows the Commissioner of Education to grant up to the equivalent of ten student attendance days for public school districts that have an alternative instruction plan approved by the commissioner. The alternative methods can include virtual learning online or even packets that are sent home ahead of time.
Schools can make use of the alternative methods for snow days or even when schools need to close for a contagious illness outbreak or utility outage.
The public school district’s alternative instruction plan shall demonstrate how teaching and learning in the public school district will not be negatively impacted by the use of alternative methods of instruction.
In the application, schools must describe how technology and resources will be available to the students if needed. Schools must also detail teacher responsibilities, how attendance will be determined, and how the district will communicate the expectations with parent and students for an AMI day. So far, 175 districts in the state have had their plans approved.
This is just one more way to ensure our students have the most instruction time possible before taking standardized tests in the spring. We look forward to hearing how the legislation is impacting our students in the months ahead. To learn more about the program visit www.arkansased.gov. I would also welcome hearing from parents and educators with your thoughts about AMI and how it can be improved.
In case you missed Governor Hutchinson's radio address last week, I want to relay how he sees that Arkansans will benefit from the recently-passed federal tax cut, and what you can expect to see in the form of a savings in your utilities in the future.
In Arkansas, the Arkansas Public Service Commission (PSC) is the state agency that oversees utility companies that provide electricity, natural gas and water. The monopoly that utility companies hold means that when a utility company wants to raise the price it charges its customers, it must submit a rate request to the PSC for approval or denial.
Part of the cost of providing electricity is the tax a company pays to the federal government. Arkansas law allows utility companies to charge rates that cover the cost of providing its service plus a rate of return on its investment. Now, since the utility companies will be paying less corporate tax, their cost to provide electricity, natural gas and water will drop.
Governor Hutchinson has asked PSC Commissioner Ted Thomas to expedite the review and to pass this savings along to Arkansas utility customers, both residential and business. Like you, I'll be looking forward to a drop in my utility bill.
Speaking of happy news, please join me in offering congratulations to Mr. Phillip Gilmore, Ph.D., and Chief Executive Officer of the Ashley County Medical Center, on his recent appointment to the State Board of Health. His willingness to serve the public in this position is a great testament to his interest in improving the health of all Arkansans. He will be a great representative for southeast Arkansas in this important position.
I am also grateful to Arkansas State Supreme Court Chief Justice John Dan Kemp for visiting the 10th Judicial District and Drew County last week. Hosted by Circuit Judge Bynum Gibson, Chief Justice Kemp's visit with judges and other legal personnel and interested persons from Drew, Ashley, Desha, Bradley and Chicot counties about the justice system was interesting and informative.
With the snow a bit behind us, I look forward to seeing more of you out and about this week. Please let me know how I may be of assistance. It remains my great honor and privilege to serve as your state representative, and I am always interested in what you think will benefit southeast Arkansas.
I can be reached by phone at (870) 460-0773, by email at leanne.burch@ arkansashouse.org, on Facebook @BurchforAR. I also invite you to check out my website at leanneburch.com. I look forward to hearing from you. As always, I would love to come visit your organization or business, so please reach out to me.