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The School Choice Train Makes Its Next Stop: Arkansas Gov. Says Yes to Special Needs Vouchers

Another Friday is upon us, my friends. And what a Friday it is! Birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and school choice just keeps on flourishing. That’s right, Nevada’s big success wasn’t the end of the story. Arkansas has now come aboard the school choice train!

Two days ago, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed House Bill 1552 into law. With a quick wave of the magic gubernatorial wand, Hutchinson breathed life into the Succeed Scholarship Program—a move that brought praise from friends of choice. The program is designed to provide private school tuition scholarships to kids with special needs.

As usual, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice is on tap with a nice overview of the Succeed Scholarship Program. But for those who, like me, are a little anxious to get rolling on this fine Friday afternoon, I’ll provide the quick ‘n’ dirty right here:

  • The program is open to students who have been in public school for at least one year and who are either on an Individualized Education Plan or the dependent of an active duty service member.
  • Students will be funded at the full “public school foundation funding amount,” which I believe is an analogue to our per-pupil funding. No tough voucher caps here, though it bears mentioning that many special needs kids will require more than this amount to be served in some schools.
  • Participating students must either take an annual nationally norm-referenced test or, if the student is exempt from such tests due to his or her disability, have a portfolio exhibiting their progress.
  • Participating schools have to be accredited, employ teachers with at least a bachelor’s degree, and be accountable to parents for meeting the needs of voucher students.
  • As far as this little guy can tell, there is no cap on how much the program can give out in vouchers.

Neato! This will help a lot of kids get into better situations. The American Federation for Children said in its celebratory press release (linked above) that “An estimated 13% of Arkansas 483,114 public school students are eligible for scholarships, which will be worth up to $6,646 in the program’s first year.” For those of you who don’t have pocket calculators handy, that means that about 62,804 students are eligible to receive vouchers this year. Not every eligible kid will apply, of course, but it’s still pretty cool to see Arkansas stand up for one of its neediest student populations.

The school choice train is picking up steam, my friends. Let’s hope its next stop is right here in Colorado.