Arkansas expands eligibility for Education Freedom Accounts

(The Center Square) – More Arkansas students will be eligible for Education Freedom Accounts this upcoming school year, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday.

The program will expand to children of veterans, military reserve members, first responders, law enforcement officers, and students who previously attended D-rated schools for the 2024-2025 school year, the governor said.

Previously, the program was open only to first-time kindergarteners, students from F schools or Level 5 districts, students from the Succeed Scholarship Program, homeless students, current or former foster care students, students with disabilities, and children of active-duty military members.

“I’m a mom of three, so I know that every child in our state learns a little bit differently. Education Freedom Accounts recognize that parents’ choice, not random geography, should be the primary determining factor in where a child goes to school,” Sanders said. “I’m proud that we are prioritizing Arkansas’ heroes and their families in this year’s expansion.”

The Education Freedom Account Program was one of the key features of the LEARNS Act, passed last year. It provides families up to 90% of Arkansas’ prior year per-student foundation funding, which was $6,600 during the 2023-2024 school year, according to the Department of Education.

The largest increase in the governor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2025 is an additional $100 million for education to support the LEARNS Act. Lawmakers meet on April 10 to discuss the spending plan.

The money from the EFAs is sent directly to participating schools and service providers through a digital wallet. Previously, unused funds did not roll over into the following year. However, during the next school year, the difference between qualifying expenses and the amount made available may roll over to the following year, the Department of Education said.

The funds can be used on eligible expenses like private school tuition, uniforms, and other expenses required by the school, according to the Department of Education.

Eligible expenses will expand starting in the 2024-2025 school year to include instructional materials, tutoring services, curricula, supplemental supplies, certain technology devices, transportation costs, and fees for college courses.

Last year, 5,407 student applications were funded, with more than 100 schools participating, according to the governor’s office.

“We are pleased to extend EFA program eligibility to these additional categories of students,” said Education Secretary Jacob Oliva. “For most parents, public schools will be the first and best choice for their child, but a one-size-fits-all approach does not meet the needs of all students and families. Parents want and deserve options. The EFA program provides that, and now additional children will be eligible for those opportunities.”

The application window opened Monday for students, schools and service providers.

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