Governor Sanders announces additional families eligible for Education Freedom Account Program

Twyla Lambe (from left), principal of Harvest Time Academy, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Jacob Oliva, secretary for the Arkansas Department of Education, speak Monday with a student following Sanders' announcement that the LEARNS Act Education Freedom Accounts will expand to include more students in the upcoming school year. Visit nwaonline.com/photo for today's photo gallery.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Monica Brich)
Twyla Lambe (from left), principal of Harvest Time Academy, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Jacob Oliva, secretary for the Arkansas Department of Education, speak Monday with a student following Sanders' announcement that the LEARNS Act Education Freedom Accounts will expand to include more students in the upcoming school year. Visit nwaonline.com/photo for today's photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Monica Brich)

FORT SMITH, Ark – Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders today joined Arkansas Secretary of Education Jacob Oliva at Harvest Time Academy in Fort Smith to announce that children of veterans, military reserve members, first responders, and law enforcement officers, as well as students who previously attended D-rated schools, are now eligible to apply for the Education Freedom Account program. The department began accepting applications for the 2024-2025 school year today, April 1st.

The EFA program serves as a keystone parental empowerment program under Gov. Sanders' LEARNS Act. The 2024-2025 school year marks the second year of implementation.

"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," said Governor Sanders. "I'm proud that we are prioritizing Arkansas' heroes and their families in this year's expansion."

"We are pleased to extend EFA program eligibility to these additional categories of students," Arkansas Department of Education Secretary Jacob Oliva said. "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."

For the 2024-2025 school year, eligible students include the following:

· First-time kindergarteners

· Students coming from "D" or "F" schools or "Level 5" districts

· Students coming from the Succeed Scholarship Program

· Homeless students

· Current or former foster care students

· Students with disabilities

· Children of active-duty military

· Veterans

· Military Reserves

· First Responders

· Law Enforcement Officers

During the 2023-2024 school year, 5,407 student applications were funded, and more than 100 schools were approved to participate.

The application window also opens April 1 for schools and service providers who want to apply to participate as a provider. To access both parent and provider applications and to learn more about the program, go to https://dese.ade.arkansas.gov/Offices/office-of-school-choice-and-parent-empowerment/education-freedom-accounts.

In another effort to expand quality education options for Arkansas families, today ADE also released an updated and improved charter school application. Charter applicants have until June 14 to submit their applications. Once submitted, the department will review the applications and provide feedback. Applicants will then have until August 9 to submit their final version, with the Charter Authorizing Panel reviewing applications this fall. Panel decisions are then subject to review and approval by the State Board of Education.

To access the new charter application, go to https://dese.ade.arkansas.gov/Offices/office-of-school-choice-and-parent-empowerment/charter-schools.

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