The state Board of Education will consider raising the cap on the number of students who can enroll in the Arkansas Virtual Academy.

The academy has received preliminary approval for a higher cap from the Charter Authorizing Panel and the next step is for the request to go before the state Board. If the Board of Education approves, the online school’s enrollment cap would increase from 2,000 to 3,000 students.

There are two state-approved online schools in Arkansas - the Virtual Academy and the Arkansas Connections Academy, whose enrollment cap also is 3,000 students.

Charter schools are financed by state tax revenue. They operate under a contract with the state that waives some of the regulations and policies that govern traditional public schools. Besides the two online schools, Arkansas also has approved 24 “open enrollment” charter schools run by non-profit organizations. Open enrollment charters can also be operated by institutions of higher education.

Arkansas also has 28 “district conversion” charter schools, which are run by school districts. There are 238 public school districts in Arkansas that operate 1,064 schools from kindergarten through grade 12. Of those, 547 are elementary schools, 219 are middle schools or junior high schools and 298 are high schools.

They employ 32,818 certified teachers and their total enrollment this school year is 477,268 students. About 63 percent of Arkansas public school students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches because their families’ yearly income is below certain poverty thresholds.

The next meeting of the state Board of Education will be June 8 and 9.

Scrap Metal Sales

In 2009 the legislature approved Act 390 to strengthen enforcement of laws against the theft of scrap metal. Copper and other metals had become valuable enough that there was a spike in thefts of pipes and cables from outdoor air conditioning units, as well as from electrical power stations and cable TV and telephone lines. Act 390 makes it a Class D felony to destroy gas, electric and cable lines, air conditioning units and farm equipment in order to steal metal.

Dealers who buy scrap metal are required to record indentifying characteristics of their clients, including copies of their ID cards or drivers’ licenses, the license plates of their vehicles and a digital photo and thumb print of the person selling the scrap metal.

The Review Subcommittee of the Legislative Council, without debate, reviewed two contracts with private firms to enhance the computer capacity of the Arkansas Crime Information Center. ACIC maintains the computer system for keeping up with sales of scrap metal, as mandated in Act 390 of 2009.

ACIC operates computers that law enforcement agencies can access to search for criminal histories and crime statistics.

Human Development Centers

The subcommittee also reviewed a series of contracts that Human Development Centers around the state have signed with providers of services like physical and occupational therapy.

Arkansas operates five centers that care for people with developmental disabilities. The center in Arkadelphia has space for 134 people, the one in Booneville for 145 people, the one in Conway for 484 people, the one in Jonesboro for 120 people and the one in Warren for 104 people.