Ross, Hutchinson explain their number one priority in education

If you could accomplish only one thing in public education during your time as governor, what would that be?

Democrat Mike Ross and Republican Asa Hutchinson were asked that question at the Arkansas School Boards Association’s Summer leadership Conference in Hot Springs Friday.

Ross touted his plan to expand pre-K classes for four-year-olds. Currently, free pre-K classes are available through the Arkansas Better Chance program for families making 200 percent above the poverty level. Ross would expand that to families at 300 percent. As the program is phased in, families making 400 percent of the poverty level would be eligible for the ABC program by paying a reduced rate of 50 percent.

Total cost of the plan would be $35 million a year. He said it would be funded through “revenue growth”

“If you’re a parent and you’ve got a four-year-old and you want them in a public pre-K classroom, there should be a desk for them regardless of your income and regardless where you live in Arkansas,” he said.

Hutchinson wants computer science to be offered in every public Arkansas high school in four years. He said fewer than one in 10 high schools currently offer it. Under Hutchinson’s plan, a high-level computer science class could serve as a math or science credit and potentially a concurrent college credit as well.

Total initial cost would be half a million dollars to train teachers, Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said that if 20 percent of Arkansas students took computer science, 6,000 would leave school with that skill every year, which “could change the dynamics of this state for decades and decades to come.”

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