(The Center Square) – Ninety schools and 5,426 students applied for Education Freedom Accounts under Arkansas’ new LEARNS Act, according to information provided to The Center Square by the Arkansas Department of Education.
The deadline for applying for the accounts is Tuesday. Parents approved for the accounts would receive up to $6,600 that can be used for tuition, uniforms and other expenses when attending an approved non-governmental school.
The LEARNS Act takes effect Tuesday. The state lost a court challenge over the bill’s emergency clause, which would have made the bill effective immediately. A judge ruled that state lawmakers did not take two separate votes–one on the bill and one on the emergency clause.
Attorney General Tim Griffin appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court. The case is still ongoing, even though the bill takes effect Tuesday.
“The legal issue at stake in this case is of great significance, and it is in the State’s interest that it be definitively resolved,” Griffin said in a statement provided to the Center Square. “That’s why I asked for expedition, and that’s why the Court agreed even though the approved schedule will take us beyond August 1.”
The omnibus bill also included allocations for teacher raises and literacy coaches.
Citizens for Arkansas Public Education and Students hoped to gather enough signatures for a ballot initiative to let voters decide whether to repeal the LEARNS Act. According to a video on the group’s Facebook page, they were about 500 signatures short of the 54,000 signatures needed.
The Arkansas Education Association supported parts of the bill but opposed the Education Freedom Accounts.
AEA President Carol B. Fleming told Chalkboard News the accounts would move money away from rural school districts.
“We need to be investing in our schools, not taking money away from our public schools and putting them into private schools,” Fleming said.