Voucher money on Joint Budget agenda this morning | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Voucher money on Joint Budget agenda this morning

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 at 9:02 AM

Lots of work is done when Joint Budget adds "special language" to spending bills that are then routinely approved with little discussion on the floor.

Example: Special language will be added to an Education Department spending bill to provide $800,000 for private school vouchers. It is the so-called "Succeed" scholarship program to allow "special needs" students — an estimated 50,000 or so of the state's school-age population — to get money to go to private schools. The conservative think tank that sold this program to Gov. Asa Hutchinson last year suggests money can be saved by private schools doing public school work for less.  When Rep. Doug House's bill was passed, it was said the money wouldn't come from education adequacy money. This special language takes the money from the Education Department appropriation.

One other piece of special language noted: Enabling some of the secretary of state's appropriation to be used for grants to the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development Commission. Is this a continuation of attempts to divert state money to local purposes guided by legislators? Don't know. I do know the General Improvement Fund money granted to such agencies has been put in serious question by Mike Wilson's lawsuit challenging these allotments as unconstitutional. Some commissions have shut down spending of that money because of the lawsuit.

UPDATE: It appears that Northwest Arkansas money is to continue funding Sen. Jon Woods and others funneled to the tiny Ecclesia Bible College for a work-study program of some sort. Statewide benefit or local pork?

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