New education bill could mean finance assistance for private schools

Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 6:27 PM CST
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - A newly-filed bill in the Arkansas Senate is hoping to give financial assistance to those less fortunate.

Senate Bill 294, also known as the LEARNS Act, has a part about vouchers called the “Arkansas Children’s Educational Freedom Account Program.”

The program would provide families state funds of up to 90% of the annual per-student public school funding rate for use on education expenses.

For private schools, the increased funding could mean tuition.

“It has the promise to fundamentally change a lot for our school families and by extension our school,” Terry Austin said.

Austin is an administrator at Crowley’s Ridge Academy and said he knows that parents in the school are excited about the possibilities the bill brings.

“I can see why they are excited because that burden could be lifted for them, they can be at the school they want to attend,” he said.

If passed, Austin believes the bill would increase their enrollment but added their goal is to never just take kids from public schools, he just wants the students to succeed.

“We have a friendly competition for students, we never want them to be negatively impacted by anything, so we are cautiously optimistic,” he said.

The first students eligible for the program next school year will be those with disabilities, homeless students, foster children, children of active military members, and students enrolled in an “F”-rated school.

Senate Bill 294 said first-year participation in the program is capped at 1.5% of the current total public school enrollment in the state, but that number increases over time.