Arkansas Child Academic Opportunity Scholarship and Grant Act FAQ

The Child Academic Opportunity Scholarship and Grant Act creates new opportunities for Arkansas to harness the power of private philanthropy to improve educational opportunities for low-income and at-risk students.

The act creates a new dollar-for-dollar state income tax credit program for individuals and businesses that contribute toward either flexible private-school scholarship accounts or grants for public schools serving predominantly low-income populations of students.

Public School Frequently Asked Questions

If enacted, taxpayers could begin contributing toward Academic Opportunity grants in January 2022.

In its first year, the program allows for up to $10 million in state income tax credits. Of this total amount, $6 million is reserved for public-school grants and $4 million is reserved for private-school scholarship accounts.

Both these credit caps are subject to their own “escalator clauses.” If 90 percent of either cap is fundraised in a given fiscal year, the cap will automatically grow by 25 percent in the following fiscal year. For example, if $5.4 million is raised against the $6 million public-school cap, that cap would automatically grow to $7.5 million in the following fiscal year.

There is no maximum grant size. As with many other grant programs, grant-makers—designated student support organizations (SSOs), in this case—have the flexibility to determine grant sizes and terms based on specific needs.

Public schools can use grants for a wide variety of educational expenses, including:

  • Technology enhancements like wireless access points, computers, or tablets
  • Building upgrades for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, or roof repairs
  • Remote learning intervention platform technology
  • Social and emotional well-being programming for students and parents
  • Professional development for staff working with diverse populations
  • Sensory rooms and equipment for special education services
  • Funding for economically disadvantaged public school student populations

Private School Frequently Asked Questions

If enacted, taxpayers could begin contributing toward the Opportunity Scholarship Program in January 2022.

In its first year, the program allows for up to $10 million in state income tax credits. Of this total amount, $6 million is reserved for public-school grants and $4 million is reserved for private-school scholarship accounts.

Both these credit caps are subject to their own “escalator clauses.” If 90 percent of either cap is fundraised in a given fiscal year, the cap will automatically grow by 25 percent in the following fiscal year. For example, if $3.6 million is raised against the $4 million private-school cap, that cap would automatically grow to $5 million in the following fiscal year.

Scholarships are capped at 100 percent of the per-student foundation funding amount determined annually by the state. In 2020-2021, this amount is approximately $7,000. This amount would be made available to families in equal quarterly increments throughout the school year.

Families can use scholarship accounts for a wide variety of educational expenses, including:

  • Tuition and fees at an approved private school
  • Courses in local public schools
  • Educational course materials like textbooks
  • Tutoring services
  • Testing fees for college-placement exams, industry certifications, or other assessments
  • Fees for academically focused after-school or summer educational programs
  • Tuition, fees, or materials at institutions at in-state or out-of-state institutions of higher education if students are dual-enrolled in high school and a postsecondary school


Community Engagement Associate

Are you passionate about being a community organizer working to make sure every student in Arkansas has equal access to a world-class, high quality education?

Join us as a community engagement associate in Arkansas to find, train and coach parent leaders so they can advocate effectively for high-quality education that best meets the needs of all children regardless of zip code or economic circumstance.

We seek applicants who want to be community organizers and develop leaders.

Successful organizers must maintain a courteous and professional attitude in dealing with people within and outside of TRA and have to demonstrate behavior and have a reputation that is aligned with the core values of TRA.

The Position

As a TRA Community Engagement Associate in Arkansas, you will work alongside our team members who have decades of experience as community organizers. This is a full-time position with a competitive salary.

Sample “Week-in-the-Life” of a Community Engagement Associate as a community organizer

  • Schedule 1-1 meetings with 10-15 parents a week who are interested in education options that meet the needs of all kids regardless of zip code
  • Build power in the community by coaching and training education leaders to conduct house meetings where parents strategize about how to create positive change
  • Make calls and engage on social media to invite parents to attend an upcoming meeting and schedule 1-1 visits
  • Meet with your supervisor to evaluate your previous parent leader team meeting
  • Schedule a 1-1 with a local nonprofit leader to learn more about their work with families and the changing political environment in local cities
    Maintain a detailed familiarity with assigned communities.

Develop Leaders!

Build relationships: Meet people, listen for self-interest, uncover values
Make judgments: Invite participation, identify potential leadership
Create learning: define situations that test and develop new leadership

Job Responsibilities Include:

➢ Find, recruit, train, challenge, and develop parent leaders
➢ Develop community and issue stakeholder power relationships
➢ Develop and support a local committee where community parents lead
➢ Create and move issue campaigns that produce education reform
➢ Represent TRA at various community events, meetings, and media events which may be out of town and on some evenings, weeknights and weekends
➢ Willingness to work long and flexible hours
➢ Serve as a credible source of knowledge and information to community members
➢ Work collaboratively with organizations providing technical assistance to the effort
➢ Utilize online organizing tools and social media

Qualifications (Required)

➢ A valid driver’s license and reliable, insured vehicle (needed to fulfill job requirements)
➢ Proof of eligibility to work in the United States
➢ Ability to work frequent evening meetings (average 3-4 per week) and some weekends
➢ Baccalaureate degree or equivalent work experience
➢ Work experience in low-income communities
➢ Demonstrated experience in outreach or advocacy work (paid or voluntary)
➢ Demonstrated ability to build strong relationships with diverse stakeholders and communities
➢ Ability to write and speak clearly and persuasively, including speaking in small and large group settings
➢ Strong strategic thinking skills and an ability to analyze policies and institutions
➢ Experience with and sensitivity to multicultural work environments
➢ Willingness to work as a member of and contribute to a team in a dynamic, learning environment
➢ Passion for creating more high-quality school options for working families
➢ Eagerness to learn and apply TRA’s approach to community outreach

Qualifications (Preferred)

➢ Two to five years of outreach or community development experience
➢ Understanding of the education reform landscape
➢ Academic or experiential knowledge related to building social capital and political power in low-income and multilingual communities
➢ Skills as a trainer with specialized knowledge in grassroots leadership development,, public policy development, and/or p
➢ Skills as a trainer with specialized knowledge in grassroots leadership development, political context, public policy development, and/or public education
➢ Experience developing and supporting public policy solutions to local or regional problems
➢ Experience working with diverse communities
➢ Proficient in Spanish

The Exceptional Community Engagement Candidate Will Possess These Qualities:

Authenticity: Honest; self-confident and inspires confidence
Curiosity: Inquisitive; sees patterns, questions and examines everything
Imagination: Vision; Ability to see what does not exist; conceive broader meaning
Sense of Humor: Observant; recognizes the absurd; sees contradictions
Organized: Conscientious; thorough in thought in action, consistently reliable
Learning: Investigates; open to new ideas and different points of view


Back to School Parent Survey - Fall 2020

This survey closes on Wednesday, August 5th at 6pm cst.


Come together

Come together

Covid-19 affects education by Brenttia O. Clayton

Special to the Democrat-Gazette 

Brenttia O. Clayton is a fourth-grade ELA Teacher, 2020 Teacher of the Year, and founder of Teachable Moments.

May 21, 2020

“We Are the World” is a 1985 classic written by the late Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. This song speaks of uniting the world when we need it most. Fast-forward 35 years later and those words seem more fitting for our current season.

The covid-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the world and resulted in Arkansas schools being closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic school year. The closing has shaken not only the parents as they try to navigate resources for unexpected homeschooling, but also teachers and school administrators.

This pandemic has left parents and educators wondering what the possible effects of long school closures on children’s short-term learning and long-term success might be, especially for children who lack sufficient resources.

There is no surprise that one size does not fit all when it comes to education. Unfortunately, in this case, the achievement gap has been stretched even more due to a number of disparities, one being socioeconomic status. Children with two college-educated parents may get a lot more help and enrichment than those who don’t, especially if their parents are financially stable and have access to technology on top of flexible work schedules….

Read more….

https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2020/may/21/come-together-20200521/


May 15 Newsletter

Read the latest news and updates from The Reform Alliance


2020 Graduations and Resources


Want Kids to Succeed

Want kids to succeed

April 27, 2020

As a parent, I will do anything I can to help my child succeed and excel. If that means sacrificing financially, our family has and is willing to do this. However, no family should have to struggle to make sure their child gets the best education.

My son Spencer struggles with anxiety, which has a major impact on his learning abilities and his social comfort in certain settings. Traditional schools are great, but traditional simply does not work for Spencer. It is important for children, and their parents, to have options when it comes to where and how they receive an education. Just like all of our children have different personalities and talents, they learn differently too.

I am confident that a new learning environment for Spencer, one that takes his anxiety-driven behavior issues into consideration, would be a game changer. I believe in his abilities and his desire to learn, but without the right environment, we are grappling with issues out of his control. Spencer's success in education will not only provide him a better future, but it will also give him the confidence he needs to make a positive impact on society. Isn't that what we all want for our children? A program like the Succeed Scholarship would not only change the trajectory of Spencer and other children's lives, but it would also impact families in a way that would be felt for generations.

STACEY STANLEY

https://www.nwaonline.com/news/2020/apr/27/letters-20200427/  


Opportunity to Thrive

Opportunity to Thrive

April 25, 2020

Perhaps you have heard the term school choice, but many may not understand what it really means and what an impact it can have on a family. To me, it means my daughter, who has a speech disability, can go to a school that meets her specific needs.

My daughter Taylor has a disability called speech apraxia, a motor speech disorder that causes her to have problems saying sounds, syllables and words. Having a child with a disability is a unique challenge, but it can be even more of a challenge when it comes to finding a school that will best fit their learning needs. Thanks to our ability to choose the right place for Taylor, she is able to attend a school that offers one-on-one teaching and the therapy she needs to succeed. Before she had this opportunity, Taylor struggled with reading, but now reads to me, which is music to this momma’s ears! More than that, I have seen her self-confidence rise tremendously because she has been given an opportunity for success, not set up for failure and frustration.

This incredible opportunity for Taylor and our family is due to the Succeed Scholarship Program. Before receiving the scholarship, we had to either borrow money or choose between paying a bill or paying tuition. The Succeed Scholarship allows us an opportunity to place our daughter in a learning environment where she has teachers who understand her condition and give her what she needs.

This is simple. Parents and guardians are the best voices for their children. If we don’t stand up for our children and get them the help they need, who will? We cannot risk allowing them to fall behind in a school that is not right for them. Every child has different needs and every child deserves an educational opportunity to best meet those needs.

BRANDY BILLINGSLEY

Benton

https://www.nwaonline.com/news/2020/apr/25/letters-20200425/