This week we have two important updates from the Capitol.

The first is the action taking during our first week of the fiscal session. The second update we want to share with you is a new report providing valuable information for parents about every school district in the state.

We convened on Wednesday in the House to begin the budget process for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

The outcome of the budget will largely depend on the passage of Senate Bill 121.

SB121 is the appropriation bill for services and operating expenses for the Department of Human Services Division of Medical Services.

It includes appropriations for long-term care facilities, AR Kids First, and hospital and medical services. This is also the appropriation to fund the services provided by Arkansas Works, the healthcare insurance program for low-income Arkansans.

This appropriation failed in a vote on the Senate floor. It has now been sent back to the Joint Budget Committee.

We also want to bring your attention to a report released this week grading the performance of our schools.

Each year, the Arkansas Department of Education publishes a performance report of the state’s schools. This online report provides information about each school, district and the state, including test performance, teacher qualification, retention, discipline and much more. It is designed to help open the lines of communication between schools, parents and the local community.

The A-F grading scale is a widely accepted way to identify how well a student is performing in school, especially on tests and assignments. Beginning in 2015, a school’s performance was evaluated using this same A-F grading scale. The Arkansas Legislature passed Act 696 in 2013 requiring the state to implement an A-F grading scale for schools. It is important to remember when reviewing the grades for the schools that is does not measure how well an individual student or teacher is doing. And during the 2014-15 school year, students took more rigorous tests aligned with more rigorous standards.

We have posted a link to the reports on our website www.arkansashouse.org.

And don’t forget you can always go to the website to find updated information regarding the session and live streaming of our proceedings.