Panel approves removing limit on transfer cap for pre-k alum
(This story was updated Feb. 8, 2023 to reflect passage of the bill by the House.)
The Arkansas House of Representatives passed on Wednesday a bill that will remove a cap on school choice transfers when a student has attended pre-K in a nonresident school district.
Sponsored by Rep. Julie Mayberry (R-Hensley), House Bill 1185 seeks to amend the Public School Choice Act of 2015, which limits more than 3% of a school district’s population from transferring to another district.
There are exceptions to the cap, such as when the request that would exceed the limit applies to siblings. Mayberry’s bill would add an exception for students that attended preschool in a nonresident district for at least one year before enrolling in kindergarten.
Novella Humphrey told the House Education Committee on Wednesday that the legislation would remove a hurdle for families in the Southside School District where she is the director of curriculum and federal programs. The district encompasses about 51 square miles south of Batesville and serves children from a few weeks old to 12th grade.
Over the last five years, several families who’ve chosen Southside over their resident district have appealed the cap to the State Board of Education, Humphrey said. While students have been released to the district, the appeal process is a burden and a hurdle, she said.
“We would like to remove that barrier for families,” Humphrey said. “They’re making the choice early on with their dollars because most families are paying tuition to attend in those infant and toddler rooms, they’re paying tuition…they’re making that choice early, but late they’re not allowed to attend because of the 3% cap. So we’d like to see some leeway.”
Rep. Hope Duke (R-Gravette) asked if a board to board transfer can address those situations. Humphrey said it is an option when the resident district is willing to do a board to board transfer, but some districts are not willing to do that.
HB1185 passed the House by a vote of 98-0 and now heads to the Senate for consideration.