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— The state’s top education official says he would view any cuts to Arkansas’ public schools budget as a slide from the commitment the state has made in the wake of lawsuits over how it funds its classrooms.

Arkansas Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell on Thursday praised the Legislature for the improvements it’s made over the years to the state’s public schools and said that any decreases would back away from that commitment. Kimbrell spoke to the Joint Budget Committee as it reviewed Gov. Mike Beebe’s proposed schools budget.

Beebe has proposed increasing the public school budget by $56 million to nearly $2 billion. It makes up nearly half of Beebe’s proposed $4.7 billion budget for the coming year. Lawmakers convene at the Capitol for the fiscal session Feb. 13.

The Joint Budget Committee on Wednesday planned to continue its hearings and look at proposals for the Public School Fund, the Department of Correction and the Department of Community Correction.

Lawmakers convene at the Capitol on Feb. 13 for the fiscal session.

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