Fiscal Impact Statement from the University of Arkansas and EdChoice shows tax credit scholarship program would have a positive fiscal impact on public schools

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Feb. 25, 2020) – On Wednesday, researchers from the University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy and EdChoice released a fiscal impact statement regarding HB1371, The Arkansas Child Academic Opportunity Scholarship and Grant Act. The study revealed the proposed tax-credit scholarship program would generate a positive estimated net benefit of $773,000 to Arkansas public school districts.

The study projected that any reduction in funding to districts would more than offset the reduction in variable costs for those students, leaving a positive return for public schools in the amount of $900 per student in the program.

“It’s a common myth that programs like this will negatively impact public school finances,” said Emmy Henley, managing director of The Reform Alliance. “The reality is this innovative, parent-driven program helps alleviate budget concerns at public schools while giving families who have been historically marginalized access to options that better serve their children’s needs.”

The study also estimates that state taxpayers would experience net fiscal savings worth $2.3 million, or $2,600 for each scholarship student.

Last week a poll conducted by Cygnal, an award-winning national public opinion and predictive analytics firm, revealed that 65% of Arkansas voters want parents to be able to customize their child’s education or invest in both traditional and other education options. Additionally, 61% of Arkansas voters support tax-credit funded grants for public schools that serve Arkansas’s lowest income populations.

“Overall, Arkansans want parents to be in charge of their children’s education,” said Jacqueline Boggess, director of insights & communications at Cygnal. “Tax credits for donations to scholarships for low- and middle-income students and donations for grants to public schools that serve low- and middle-income students are both popular statewide.”

The full fiscal impact statement is available here. The full poll is available here.

ABOUT THE OFFICE FOR EDUCATION POLICY: The Office for Education Policy (OEP) is a research center within the College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas. The OEP exists to serve as a resource to state lawmakers, educators, administrators, and other leaders, providing them with current national, state, and regional research in education to support them in thoughtful decision-making concerning K-12 education in the State of Arkansas.

ABOUT EDCHOICE: EdChoice is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing full and unencumbered educational choice as the best pathway to successful lives and a stronger society. EdChoice believes that families, not bureaucrats, are best equipped to make K-12 schooling decisions for their children. The organization works at the state level to educate diverse audiences, train advocates and engage policymakers on the benefits of high-quality school choice programs. EdChoice is the intellectual legacy of Milton and Rose D. Friedman, who founded the organization in 1996 as the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

ABOUT THE REFORM ALLIANCE: The Reform Alliance is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring every K-12 student in Arkansas has equal access to a world-class education. The Reform Alliance is proud to manage the Succeed Scholarship at no cost to the State of Arkansas. Even small expenses like the cost of mailing checks to schools are paid for by a private foundation grant. Free educational resources and more information about The Reform Alliance are available at thereformalliance.org.

ABOUT CYGNAL: Cygnal is an award-winning national public opinion and predictive analytics firm that pioneered multi-mode polling, peer-to-peer text collection, and Political Emotive Analysis. Cygnal was recently named the #1 most accurate polling and research firm in the country for 2018 by The New York Times. Its team members have worked in 47 states and countries on more than 1,500 corporate, public affairs and political campaigns.


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School Choice Week Essay Competition Winnners

School Choice Week Essay Competition

We received essays from students different learning environments all over the state! We awarded $500 to a winner in each category. Congratulations to all the winners!

Holland Sweeney

Bridge to Hope Academy

I love my school because my school teaches special. My school specializes in dyslexia, which is what I have. Dyslexia makes things hard to remember and it affects my learning. I get distracted very easily, but at my school, I have things like fidget toys, swings, bean bags, and trampolines to help me concentrate better. At my school, we are taught through multisensory, so we say it, hear it, touch it, and make movements to help us learn.

I also love my school because of teachers. They are my favorite! They help me learn in different kinds of ways, like helping me read and decode words. Before I went here, I could not read at all. After being at this school for just eight days, I was able to read. At my school before this, I didn’t know how to read because they weren’t teaching me the right way. This school makes me feel good and safe. I feel more motivated to learn here.

I also love the activities we do here! At 10:00 we get brain breaks to play or eat snacks, and they help me focus on my work. On the first Friday of the month, we get to do Fishing Friday as a reward for good behavior and everybody gets to do it. It really doesn’t matter if your behavior was the best that week, because it motivates everyone to do better in life.

Our school is so great! Other students should come here if they need intervention or a better classroom. When I came in, it felt like I was welcomed in. It takes some adjusting being in a smaller classroom, but I love it. I have great friends, and I enjoy going to school! I don’t dread waking up in the mornings anymore because I am excited to grow at my school! Anyone that comes here would be welcomed into our family!

Nathan Woollen

Barton Junior High

It is January 31, a couple of hours before this essay is due and I am blank. Though I planned to make a large detailed essay, the threat of procrastination and time told me otherwise. So if you’d let me, I want to explain why school choice is important to me. This includes freedom to choose, greater learning potential, and the outward effects.

To begin with, I love freedom and liberty. Everything we do is freedom based. Even the 4th of July Mountain Dew is called ‘Liberty Brew.’ Having the freedom to choose which school I invest my resources and time into feels good. After I switched to virtual thanks to school choice, I now have more time for studying and doing activities I enjoy.

Secondly, I enjoy knowing that I can always switch to a better learning program that fits me. I had been annoyed with the wasted time in class, so switching to virtual gave me more time to do what I wanted. For others, they may prefer a private school where they excel at. Giving people the choice to learn in their own way has been proven to work.

Lastly, I’d like to discuss some other effects. People who homeschool or private school typically score higher and get better grades. Studies also show that homeschooled children do fine in the real world. It doesn’t make sense to remove their right to education, and doing so would be immoral. Allowing private schools also allows competition and leads to improvement to survive in the market.

In conclusion, I am thankful for having school-choice. The benefits from the flexibility and freedom, greater potential, and the many other effects make it an amazing idea. We need to continue to advocate and spread the word for ourselves and our children.

Marybeth Arnold

Southside High School

My community and I appreciate the option of school choice. Many people in my community, including myself, are thankful to know they are able to choose their educational future.

One of the many reasons my community is content with school choice is it can give students an education that best suits them. School choice can be beneficial to those looking for certain elective classes or alternative core classes. Without school choice, some students would not be able to take courses only given at certain schools, preventing them from receiving the best education possible for themselves.

I appreciate school choice because it has lifted a weight off of my shoulders. Both of my parents teach in Fort Smith, which is outside of my hometown. The school district I would be going to without school choice is twenty minutes away from Fort Smith schools, so it would not be convenient for my parents if I ever needed them for something. Because of school choice, I have the privilege of attending the same school district my parents work in. They are closer to me, and it is much more convenient for them.

I am also fortunate to have school choice because I chose to go to a high school that has better opportunities for me than others. The high school I chose to go to has better stagecraft and art programs than most. Because of these opportunities, I have made new friends and found my passion in the arts.

My community and I appreciate school choice, and I cannot imagine how students would feel without the opportunity of it.


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National School Choice Week spotlighted education options

Last week, The Reform Alliance, a nonprofit focused on improving education in Arkansas, connected with students, schools and parents across the state in celebration of National School Choice Week.

Board Chair Laurie Lee, Communications Director DeAnn Thomas, Managing Director Emmy Henley and Education Policy Advisor Shane Fletcher handed out meals and NSCW swag bags.

The Reform Alliance shared “Miss Virginia,” a film about a single mother’s fight to get her son a quality education, during a Netflix Watch Party on Tuesday, Jan. 26. A drive-in movie showing of the film had to be canceled due to weather conditions, but the nonprofit handed out swag bags and free meals in a drive-through style event at MP Outdoor Cinema in Little Rock on Saturday, Jan. 30. The drive-in movie showing is being rescheduled.

On Thursday, Jan. 28, The Reform Alliance hosted a Virtual Town Hall with education experts Cara Candal, Corey DeAngelis, Sarah McKenzie, Cheri Stevenson and Jherrithan Dukes. The event streamed live on Facebook, and the video has received 1,316 views and reached 2,884 people.

The nonprofit also partnered with the Arkansas State Teachers Association to host an essay competition for students. Holland Sweeney from Bridge to Hope Academy won the $500 prize for education-related expenses for students in grades 4-6. Nathan Woollen from Barton Junior High won the $500 prize for students in grades 7-9. Marybeth Arnold from Southside High School won the $500 prize for students in grades 10-12.

In addition, The Reform Alliance awarded a $500 prize to Taraji Kiyumbi from the House of Opportunity microschool and a $500 prize to teachers at Compass Academy for participating in the #SchoolChoiceWeek Dance Challenge.

During the week, staff members also brought National School Choice Week swag bags to students at eStem Junior High, eStem Elementary, Lisa Elementary, The Grace School, Prism Education Center, Compass Academy, Friendship Aspire Academy in Pine Bluff, Hannah School and Arkansas Christian Academy.

“We loved shining a spotlight on the education options available for K-12 students in Arkansas,” Managing Director Emmy Henley said. “We encourage everyone to continue to work together to ensure that every student has equal access to a quality education.”



Expert panel will discuss education in Arkansas

Education experts will share information about different models of education, school choice programs and upcoming legislation during The Reform Alliance’s free Virtual Town Hall from 7:30 p.m to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28. The event will be streamed live on The Reform Alliance’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/arreformalliance).
Cara Candall, director of education opportunity at ExcelinEd, will moderate the event. A former classroom teacher, Candall has spent the last 10 years working in education policy as a senior fellow with both Pioneer Institute and the Center for Education Reform. She has a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies.
The following individuals will be panelists:
  • Corey DeAngelis is the director of school choice at Reason Foundation, the executive director at Educational Freedom Institute and an adjunct scholar at Cato Institute. He holds a doctorate in education policy.
  • Jherrithan Dukes is principal of Friendship Aspire Academy Public Charter School in Pine Bluff. He holds a master’s degree in educational administration. Prior to his work at Friendship Aspire, he taught in the Little Rock School District and served as assistant principal at eStem Public Charter Schools in Little Rock.
  • Sarah McKenzie is the executive director of the Office for Education Policy and an assistant research professor in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas. She holds a doctorate in educational statistics and research methods.
  • Cheri Stevenson is the director of academy and adult services at ACCESS®, a nonprofit in Little Rock providing evaluations, therapy services, full-time education, vocational training, community integration, mental health services and more for individuals with special needs. She has a master’s degree in communication disorders.
“The moderator and panelists have a wealth of knowledge about different facets of education,” said Emmy Henley, managing director for The Reform Alliance. “They all share a common passion, though: helping students reach their fullest potential.”
Attendees can submit questions to the panelists via direct message on Facebook or via email to info@thereformalliance.org.
The Reform Alliance is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring every K-12 student in Arkansas has equal access to a world-class education. The Reform Alliance is proud to manage the Succeed Scholarship at no cost to the State of Arkansas. Even small expenses like the cost of mailing checks to schools are paid for by a private foundation grant. Free educational resources and more information about The Reform Alliance are available at thereformalliance.org.