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State Capitol Week in Review


LITTLE ROCK – Parents can now apply to the state Education Division for Education Freedom Accounts for next year.
The application period began the first day of April. This school year about 5,000 students are benefitting from the accounts, and more children will be eligible next year.
Eligible families may receive up to 90% of the amount of per student foundation funding for last year. In the 2024-25 school year, that amount will be about $6,856 per Education Freedom Account (EFA).
An education official estimated that 14,000 students would take advantage of EFAs next school year. Families can apply online at efas.ade.arkansas.gov
Expect to be notified of approvals in June.
The governor and the legislature created the accounts last year in Act 237, also known as the LEARNS Act.
The families of students who qualify receive financial help paying for schools of their choice. This year about 100 private schools have been approved to participate. The schools send invoices to the families, then the family uploads it to the student’s Education Freedom Account and an account manager sends funding to the school.
This year eligible students include first-time kindergarteners, students coming from schools that last year got an “F” on school report cards and students from districts in Level 5 of the state’s accountability process for gauging academic distress.
Also eligible this year are students from the Succeed Scholarship Program, which existed before the LEARNS Act was created last year. Children of active duty military personnel also qualify this year.
For the 2024-2025 school year, the criteria will be expanded to include students from a school that got a “D” on school report cards. The children of military veterans and the children of emergency responders.
This year homeschooling expenses are not allowable under the Education Freedom Accounts program. However they will become allowable beginning in the 2024-2025 school year, when instructional and curriculum materials can be paid for through EFAs.
Homeschooled students will have to take the same national standardized tests that private school students take, and the results must be reported to the state Education Division. The expenses of taking the tests can be paid for through EFAs.
In the third year of the LEARNS Act, the 2025-2026 school year, all Arkansas students are eligible to apply for Education Freedom Accounts.
Revenue Report
Legislators return to the Capitol April 10 for the fiscal session. They will approve a state government budget for Fiscal Year 2025, which begins on July 1, 2024.
The state is in healthy financial shape, according to the most recent revenue report for March. Net general revenues were 17.5 percent above forecast. The solid performance was in all three of the major sources of tax revenue for state government – individual income taxes, corporate income taxes and sales taxes.
The governor has proposed a state general revenue budget of $6.31 billion, with most of the increases in spending dedicated to education. Forecasters predict that the state will end Fiscal Year 2024 with a budget surplus of $240.5 million and that Fiscal Year 2025 will end with a surplus of $376.6 million.