Arkansas has approved nearly 5,000 students to participate in its flagship school choice program.
The Arkansas Children’s Educational Freedom Account Program (EFA) passed the state legislature earlier this year and will be available to all students in 2025.
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders “is excited that starting this school year nearly 5,000 Arkansas students and 94 schools are participating in Education Freedom Accounts giving our kids access to the best education that fits their needs,” said Alexa Henning, Sanders’ communications director.
“The Governor wants to empower every parent in Arkansas to determine what is best to put their child on a path to success.”
The accounts are worth roughly $6,600 each. Currently, Arkansas spends $11,620 per public school pupil – more than $7,000 of which comes from state funds. Other funding sources include local taxes and federal monies.
The average private school tuition in Arkansas is $6,000 to $7,000.
The state’s LEARNS Act, which included the universal school choice program, was a major education overhaul co-sponsored by 80 Republicans in the state legislator.
The LEARNS Act was initially blocked by a judge who said the bill’s emergency clause – providing for the law’s implementation immediately upon the governor’s signature – required its own separate vote. However, the Arkansas Supreme Court later permitted both the law and the lawsuit to move forward.
State Attorney General Tim Griffin, who defended the bill, reiterated it was important for the LEARNS Act to be “fully implemented by the start of the new school year.”
In addition to school choice, the law raised teacher pay, gave school districts more autonomy to determine educator salary schedules, increased law enforcement for school safety and enacted rules to protect students from obscene materials.
Arkansas isn’t the only state to approve thousands of school choice applications this year. Iowa, which also has a brand-new universal program, was flooded with over 15,000 applications, half of which came in the first 24 hours.
In June, West Virginia also had approved 5,000 choice scholarships.