FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Almost 4,800 Arkansas kids are enrolled in school this year with the help of Arkansas’ new school choice program.
It’s the first year families can sign up for an Education Freedom Account under the new LEARNS Act. The state plans to spend 32.5 million dollars on the program.
“To me, it is a little bit unclear as to does that really provides choice for all parents,” said Suzanne Cyrus, a former educator from Oklahoma, which implemented a similar program in 2022. She says there are some benefits.
“I understand that giving parents a choice about what works best for their student is a good opportunity,” said Cyrus.
But on the other hand, she’s worried about how this can take away from money given to public schools by the state.
“Public funds should be used for public education and there should be separation of church and state,” said Cyrus.
Arkansas LEARNS gives families receiving vouchers of $6,672 to go toward the school of their choice. According to the report, 94 private schools around the state are participating. This includes Life Way Christian School.
Allen Williams leads the school.
“We have a number of families that make great sacrifices to bring their kids here.,” said Williams.
With a total of 601 students enrolled, 84 of them as EFA participants. He says for them, it was a mix of students experiencing homelessness and foster care. No matter the choice of school, Cyrus says she hopes the end result is a focus on education.
“I just feel like that education is a top priority from the state level to the federal,” said Cyrus.
The Arkansas Department of Education says over 50 percent of students participating in the program are from Central Arkansas. Northwest Arkansas makes up around 16 percent.