LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Following the passage of the LEARNS Act by the Arkansas House of Representatives, yes. every kid. applauds the full House for giving families more educational power and freedom. Advancing this historic legislation positions Arkansas as a leader in modernizing learning and breaking down barriers on behalf of all students and families across the state.
“By advancing the LEARNS Act, Arkansas is positioned to be a national leader in education by ensuring parents have more power in deciding how and where their children are educated,” said Vice President of Government Affairs Tom Newell. “Members of the Arkansas House understand the need to empower families with an education marketplace that expands and improves learning opportunities. We applaud Sen. Davis and Rep. Brooks for their efforts and look forward to continuing to work with Gov. Huckabee Sanders and the Arkansas legislature advance innovative, bottom-up approaches to education that help unlock the potential of every kid.”
The LEARNS Act will:
- Create a statewide ESA. The Children’s Educational Freedom Account Program would empower families with decision-making over their children’s education funding. By 2025, families would be able to access nearly $6,614 per child statewide. This enables K-12 students to access for educational expenses, including, but not limited to, textbooks, speech or occupational therapy, tutoring and more. Shifting direct resources and decision-making power to Arkansas families would allow every child to find the learning environment that best meets their needs.
- Prioritize opening up public school access. The bill eliminates a current requirement that districts cannot allow more than 3% of their students to transfer. Removing this requirement creates more opportunities for families to seek new and better options, which is a significant step towards ending assignment of schools based on zip code and income.
- Establish a Transportation Modernization Grant. This grant program would shift decision-making to public schools, childcare providers, cities, towns and other entities to make all educational options more accessible. While children are too often denied access to the education that is best for them due to their zip code, this grant program would help students in Arkansas access any public school that meets their unique needs and learning styles.
The historic policies within the LEARNS Act reflects a broader national trend, with those who spend the most time with children – teachers and parents – signaling support for ESAs. They also reflect the wants and needs of Arkansas families.
“Every child in Arkansas has value and every child has a purpose,” said Jody Harris of Fayetteville, AR, mother of four. “We are among a group of many parents who feel empowered that this bill will lift students out of situations where their learning needs remain unmet. A parent is the best advocate for their child. It’s our job to identify an education path. This is to ensure students have success and fulfill their purpose. Public school education works well for many but we have to remember that education is not one-size-fits-all. This is an opportunity to make a measurable difference in education in our state.”
“It’s time we value each individual child, and not the system. Parents need more options to put their child in a school that will fit his or her needs,” said Kara Harward of Bentonville, AR, mother of three. “This education overhaul is exactly what Arkansas needs to build back up our schools and offer a quality education that will help all Arkansan students succeed and become career ready.”
“Everything, and I mean everything starts with education,” said Heather Turchi of Little Rock, AR, mother of two. “We all have different ideas on what that should look like, but we can ALL agree on is that our system is broken, and we need change. This bill provides the change that we need for our children to thrive and succeed.”
The LEARNS Act echoes the voices of families across the state. With the passage of this landmark legislation, Arkansas would become the fourth state in the nation 2023 to advance comprehensive ESA legislation on behalf of students, teachers and families. After the House passage, the bill now goes back to the Senate for an amendment.