Governor Asa Hutchinson is calling on two northeast Arkansas community education centers to merge. The Governor spoke Thursday at the state Chamber of Commerce's 87th annual meeting. Hutchinson says two education centers in Forrest City—East Arkansas Community College and Crowley's Ridge Technical Insitute—would serve students better if the two centers became one.
“It will strengthen the programs that are offered to the students and it is about the students. It increases the offering of technical education, as well as two-year degrees. It increases the opportunities for students to have access to scholarships,” he said.
The interim president at Crowley's Ridge Technical Institute, or CRTI, told KATV Channel 7 he opposes the merger because it would mean less vocational training for students in the future. CRTI students who oppose the merger say they would also be forced to take additional credit hours at greater cost. The Governor's office says that is not the case.
In his Chamber speech, Hutchinson also touted the establishment of four new career education centers across the state and the rise of computer science classes in high schools. Hutchinson said 4,000 Arkansas high school students are taking computer coding classes for the first time, representing a 400 percent increase.
“There's been the largest increase in computer coding courses by minorities and females. That is breaking down the gender gap, the minority gap. It is improving the education and the opportunities for all of our students in Arkansas,” he said.
Hutchinson also primed the audience on his plans to conduct a trade mission to Japan and China next week. He said he looked forward to reaching out to Chinese companies in particular, because currently no Chinese companies have operations in Arkansas. Hutchinson said 18 Japanese companies currently have operations here.
Also addressing members of the Chamber, state President Randy Veach praised the work of members of the Arkansas Legislature, saying the 90th General Assembly was the most “business friendly legislative session this year, perhaps in history”.
Several awards were presented to legislators who had sponsored bills reducing capital gains taxes, eliminating certain sales taxes for industrial parts, reducing unemployment benefits, eliminating liable parties in workers compensation cases and advancing workforce education initiatives.