The Arkansas Department of Education released new data on the state’s universal school choice program after its first round of scholarships were dispersed.
The first quarter report revealed nearly 4,800 students are participating in the state’s Education Freedom Account (EFA) program, which was signed into law in March after Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders made it a top priority upon taking office.
Each student will receive around $6,600 on average over the course of 4 payments.
Special needs students make up 44% of the current scholarship recipients, with others being eligible as first-time kindergarteners, homeless or foster care children, children of military personnel or previous students of grade “F” public schools.
All Arkansas students are expected to be eligible by 2025.
“Arkansas’ Education Freedom Account program has only been around for a few months and already, it’s having a positive impact for kids in the state,” said the spokesperson for Huckabee Sanders. “Nearly 5,000 students at almost 100 schools have enrolled in the program, offering families across Arkansas the chance to choose the school that best suits their individual needs and helping every student have access to a quality education.”
Additionally, more than 60 of the nearly 100 participating schools are Christian.
The report also addressed the myth, often voiced by anti-school choice activists, that the program will lead to underfunded public schools.
“When a student leaves an Arkansas public district in favor of a private school, the district will not receive the State-funded portion of the per-pupil foundation funding amount (but will keep local property tax funds, which will now be distributed over a smaller base of students,” the report says.
Arkansas spends over $12,000 per pupil school student – a combination of local, state, and federal resources.
While the EFA program redirects state funds to “follow the student,” nearly $5,500 in local funding stays with the school.
According to the report, the vast majority of scholarship money (97%) is spent on tuition and fees. The remaining funds go toward other academic expenses, such as uniforms and state processing fees.
Arkansas isn’t the only state with massive school choice success. States such as Indiana, Arizona and West Virginia have dispersed tens of thousands of scholarships as the demand for education freedom continues to be high around the country.