LITTLE ROCK (KATV) — Education Freedom Accounts have opened up to families across Arkansas for the 2023-2024 school year.
According to the LEARNS Act, EFAs will be phased in throughout the next three school years.
This 2023-2024 school year allows certain eligible students to apply for the accounts, including:
Rep. Keith Brooks, (R) District 78, said there were over 4,400 families that had been approved for the Education Freedom Accounts since the beginning of the year and more than 90 schools had opted to participate in the program.
"We've gotten applications from 62 counties, so it represents a majority of Arkansas counties," Brooks said.
Brooks noted there was one school in Tennessee that was approved to participate in the Education Freedom Accounts.
"That's because there were existing Succeed Scholarship students who are attending school in the Memphis area and we want to make sure that students in the Memphis area can continue the consistency of their education," he said.
Brooks said there are really no parameters on where a student can go to school.
"The great thing about the Education Freedom Accounts is that it gives the opportunity for the family to choose what is best for their student," Brooks said. "So, if the students are best served traveling a longer distance, the family can choose to do that [because] there are no specific requirements that would prohibit for that."
Brooks said each student who is approved to have a voucher is allocated $6600. He added that the funds are to be used for tuition expenses and fees as well as certain transportation needs.
"No money is actually given to the family for their use," Brooks explained. "It's being utilized through an online vendor [called] Glass Wallet, Brooks said. "Once a quarter, the family is billed."
Liz Picone, with the Arkansas Education Association, shared her concern that the vouchers would take funding from public schools and that rural communities could be impacted greatly due to loss of funding.
Picone said there is also a concern that once most students become eligible to apply for the vouchers, public schools could have lower enrollment.
"Are we going to have to put second- and third-grade students together because there's only 20 third graders and 10 second graders?" Picone asked. "Are some of our schools going to potentially consolidate because of the class sizes?"
Picone said, ultimately, there are a lot of unknowns with the LEARNS Act.
"There seems to be a lot of uncertainty right now," she said. "I think people are just waiting to see how it's going to turn out in the long run."