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Republican lawmaker expresses disapproval of Arkansas LEARNS



Little Rock, Arkansas – The significant education reform plan proposed by Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders is now on its way to her desk for final approval.

This comes after lawmakers officially passed the bill and fresh changes Tuesday.

Republicans in the legislature have consistently supported the measure with an overwhelming majority, and only a small number of them opposed it.

In the House and Senate, there were a total of five Republican lawmakers who opposed the measure.

“I know it is not popular, I know it went against the Republican Party platform, but right is right and wrong is wrong,” State Rep. Jim Wooten said.

When the measure was put to a vote on the House floor on Thursday, Wooten abstained. On the House floor that day, he spoke out against the bill and warned colleagues that if it passed, it would come back to haunt them.

“I have found through my 82 years -almost 82 years – that the majority is not always right,” Wooten said.

Wooten said that he was threatened by some, who he did not want to name if he did not vote for the bill. He said he has heard other Republicans faced similar threats.

“I was told that I would pay a price,” he said. “That is fine with me.”

In fact, according to Wooten, he has doubts about the GOP colleagues who voted in favor of the plan.

“I would say that 50% of them are trying to get close to the governor, and the other 50% are afraid of her,” he said. “That’s just my personal opinion.”

More than 100 Republican legislators supported the measure. The number of GOP sponsors for the bill was similarly extensive.

The bill was first submitted by Senator Breanne Davis, who has worked to advance it through the senate for several weeks.

On Tuesday on the Senate floor, she made her final statement in support of the measure and its changes.

“We are called to fight for our kids,” she said. “We are called to fight for our teachers.”

Even before the bill was formally submitted, Senate Majority Leader Bart Hester had been a strong advocate for it.

“We all want what is best for our students and I think we have found it,” Hester said Tuesday, ahead of the bill’s final passage.

Wooten, however, asserted that constitutional issues are the reason for his opposition to the law.

One important issue is the voucher incentive, which would use public school funding to give some students in underserved communities the opportunity to attend private schools if their families lacked the financial means to do so.

“Any dollar taken out of general revenue is a dollar lost to public education,” he said.

Since the beginning, the majority of Republicans in the legislature have declared their belief that letting parents choose the school for their children rather than requiring them to attend one based on a zip code actually satisfies a constitutional requirement to provide adequate education in the state.

Wooten expressed his concerns about the effect this would have on high school football during his remarks on the House floor on Thursday. He claimed that private schools might be able to use vouchers to entice athletes from public schools to attend their institutions.

Wooten is also concerned about the budget projected from the law. He remarked that he thinks supporters overestimate the expense.

Wooten asserted that he is opposing the bill on behalf of his constituents as well.

“I have gotten over 300 emails from people and superintendents,” he said. “Without exception, every email I got from them said ‘Vote no on 294.’”

The majority of Republicans assert that this law is intended for Arkansas youth because they believe it will be in the best interests of both the state’s present and future educational systems.

“We have to do something different,” Hester said. “Different now and drastically different. It is not fair to the students of Arkansas that we’re 49th in education.”