Understanding the EFA: More Options in 2024

Join us for an online Webinar at 7 pm Tuesday, Jan. 23 in which panelists will discuss the growth of the Arkansas Educational Freedom Account (EFA) program for the 2024-25 school year, including more eligibility for students and new allowed expenses within the program.

National School Choice Week 2024

Join The Reform Alliance and the National School Choice Awareness Foundation in celebrating National School Choice Week 2024 from Jan. 20 to 27! All events are FREE!

Jan. 20 - Little Rock

Join us for a school fair to celebrate school choice on January 20th from 10:00am – 2:00pm. Hosted at the Statehouse Convention Center, this event aims to bring awareness to families around the state about education options available with the LEARNS Act. Schools showcased will represent a range of education options like traditional public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, and private schools, and you’ll get the chance to meet educators and get your questions answered to help you make the best and most informed choice for your family. This event will be fun and family-friendly, featuring a balloon artist,  photo booths, free food and face painters!

Register using this link: https://schoolchoiceweek.com/events/little-rock-school-fair-2024/


Jan. 22 - Batesville

Join The Reform Alliance for National School Choice Week's Get Hydrated Crafts Event at the Independence County Library in Batesville Monday, January 22 from 4:30-5:30 pm. Come out and decorate your new reusable water bottle to stay hydrated at school all year!
*Due to limited space, please limit participation to only one adult chaperone per ticket order. Water bottles and decoration supplies will be provided for participating children only.

Register using this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/national-school-choice-week-2024-batesville-tickets-781061123847?aff=oddtdtcreator


Jan. 25 - Jonesboro

Join us at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's Forrest L. Wood Crowley's Ridge Nature Center for Kids Wildlife Discovery Day! Learn about Birds of Prey and the American Alligator, then enjoy crafts Thursday, January 25 from 1-4 pm.
Stop by our booth to learn about National School Choice Week and your options in education!
Programming Schedule:
1pm- Birds of Prey
2pm- The American Alligator
3pm- Crafts

Register using this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/national-school-choice-week-2024-jonesboro-tickets-781053139967?aff=oddtdtcreator


Jan. 25 - Star City

Come join us at the Star City Library to celebrate National School Choice Week 2024! In addition to sharing information about educational options in Arkansas, we will be awarding winners in a bookmark decorating contest for children on Thursday, Jan. 25, at 3:45 pm.




ADE Shares Cost of Maternity Lave for Teachers

The Division of Elementary and Secondary Education released a commissioner's memo announcing details of the cost-sharing program for teachers' maternity leave outlined in the LEARNS Act.

"Public school districts and open enrollment charter schools may elect to participate in a cost-sharing agreement with the Arkansas Department of Education, Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), to provide up to twelve (12) weeks of paid maternity leave for eligible education personnel."

Read the full memo: https://adecm.ade.arkansas.gov/ViewApprovedMemo.aspx?Id=5531&fbclid=IwAR0ofnsyVwxQQjFsyNbZX3_fJ7sbo1YLKG0iHDdk3I4RDH3M7Y96wsS0Cas

EFA Q&A October 24

7 pm Oct. 24 Virtual Town Hall EFA Q&A

Whether you are a parent who has enrolled in the new LEARNS Education Freedom Account (EFA) program or are interested in enrolling in the future, The Reform Alliance invites you to join us at 7 pm Tuesday, Oct. 24, for a virtual webinar and town hall. All parents are invited! Questions welcome during the event, but can also be submitted beforehand.
We will feature panelists Dr. Darrell Smith of the Arkansas Department of Education and Dr. Patrick Wolf of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas. Dr. Smith, who administers the EFA program, will talk about the current status of the program and how EFAs can be used, and Dr. Wolf, who studies educational freedom nationally, will talk about the growth and successful implementation of such programs elsewhere and what we might be able to expect in the future.

Register: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/1216975693102/WN_IRrx2wkKT9CbMBil10JHag

Submit questions beforehand: https://forms.gle/qqCnHh4dqoqyujFH7


More on the event:

The Reform Alliance, a nonprofit organization working to improve education for Arkansas students, will be hosting another event for families looking for educational resources, a virtual town hall at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24.

Panelists at the webinar-style town hall include Darrell Smith, assistant commissioner in the Office of School Choice and Parental Empowerment in the Arkansas Department of Education, and Patrick Wolf, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Education Policy and the 21st Century Endowed Chair in School Choice in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas College of Education and Health Professions.

“We have and will continue to focus on literacy, the first element of all the LEARNS initiatives,” said Emmy Henley, managing director of The Reform Alliance. “But there’s a lot to LEARNS, and that includes empowerment as well, so we want to share information on the state’s new Educational Freedom Account, or EFA, program for families already participating or considering participating in the future.”

The EFA program creates flexible spending accounts that allow families to direct funding toward required educational expenses. The program was launched this fall by the Arkansas Department of Education and includes around 5,000 participating students and nearly 100 schools.

“There is a misconception among some that the EFA is a voucher program, but that is incorrect,” said Henley. “EFAs are more flexible, and it’s important for families to realize that, particularly as the allowed expenses for EFAs expand next school year. EFA funds can be spent on more than tuition.”

Currently, only tuition, fees, uniforms, testing and other required school expenses at private schools are allowed in the EFA program under the LEARNS Act. But, beginning in the fall of 2024, those allowed expenses also include curriculum, tutoring, instructional material, educational devices and more, subject to approval by the Department of Education.

“Naturally, parents have questions. And while we don’t yet have final administrative rules for specifics, our guests will share what they can based on the legislative language in the LEARNS Act and make it as clear as possible for interested families,” said Henley.

EFA Q&A October 24

May Awareness

May is a special month that includes awareness for mental health, children in foster care and military appreciation.
We’d like to celebrate all these causes in the context of education with a special event featuring experts sharing advice and resources.
Whether you’re a foster or military family or your family has dealt with mental health issues in any context, please join us for this event to talk about these circumstances and learn about programs and services available to you.

Register here!

The Reform Alliance Hires New Communications Director

LITTLE ROCK, AR – The Reform Alliance, whose mission is to ensure every K-12 student in Arkansas has equal access to world-class education, has hired veteran communicator Spencer Watson to serve as communications director.

“We are excited to have Spencer join us to help tell the stories of students and parents who prioritize the value of education,” said Emmy Henley, managing director of The Reform Alliance. “He will help ensure the voice of The Reform Alliance is part of a conversation that begins and ends with how education impacts our kids.”

Watson is a 2003 graduate of the University of Arkansas. He has worked in media in and around Little Rock for nearly 20 years, including both journalism and communications. He has served at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and led communications at educational nonprofit the EAST Initiative. He comes to The Reform Alliance from the City of Little Rock, where he served as marking and communications manager.

“I’m thrilled to once again be working in education and helping to secure a better future for Arkansas students, one in which equity is of the highest priority,” said Watson. “As a product of Arkansas schools myself, I want to see today’s students guaranteed all the opportunities a solid education can provide, and I look forward to working with parents, students and educators to ensure they are.”

Meet the Speaker: Edmond

Meet the Speaker: Edmond Davis

Meet the Speaker: Edmond

Edmond Davis is a 21st century assistant professor, research director and public speaker. Davis advocates for quality education, cultural competence and improved social & emotional IQ for adolescents and young adults (AYA), in particular Black males. Davis changed the dynamics of civil responsibility with law enforcement officers, and social emotional concerns with Black males with the ‘RESPOND-I-BILITY’ resource.

In 2003, Davis earned his Bachelor of Arts in History at Grambling State University (GSU). In 2003, Davis graduated with a Master of Arts in History from Louisiana Technical University (Cum Laude). For nearly 20 years, Davis has taught history and other social sciences courses at Arkansas Baptist College (ABC), University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the University of Arkansas at Pulaski Tech and the University of Phoenix.

Davis is a public and motivational speaker on topics ranging from social justice, Black fratricides, the Tuskegee Airmen, women’s history, law enforcement history and more. Some of his writing have appeared in various media publications nationally.

In a civilian capacity, and with research presentations, Davis has supplemented the minds of military cadets via the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) for the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army.

As a speaker Davis has reached thousands from state events and at universities, colleges and high schools. He has been featured on Victory Radio 100.9 FM, KABF FM Radio 88.3, Joy net Radio LIBRADIO Network KLEK-LP Currently, Davis is featured on ‘THE FISH’ Christian Radio 93.3.

In 2007-2013, Davis served as the national vice-chairman of the History Committee for Groove Phi Groove Social Fellowship Incorporated. In 2007, Davis became a historical contributor to the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. In 2009, Edmond was appointed Humanities Scholar for the Arkansas Black History Quiz Bowl. In 2014, Davis was selected as an honorary vice-commander of the 314TH Airlift Wing at the Little Rock Air Force Base.

In 2014, Davis and his wife Monica started Aviate Through Knowledge Incorporated’ (ATK, Inc.), a 501 c 3 tax-exempt nonprofit educational entity. ATK is responsible for the ‘Night of Prolific Leaders’ Series that honors community investors locally & nationally.

In 2015, Davis became a facilitator to the Arkansas Education Association (AEA) Professional Development Days. In 2016, Davis was voted as the vice-chair of the Arkansas Baptist College Faculty Senate. Davis authored “Pioneering African American Aviators Featuring the Tuskegee Airmen of Arkansas in 2012, and co-edited “The White Golden Bull” by Chet Grimsley in 2009. In 2018, Davis wrote the foreword to “A Better Me: Taking the Mask Off” by Dr. Shonda Brown-Woods and authored “21st Century African American History Makers: A Millennial Look 2000-2022,” which is slated to be released in late 2022.

In 2019, Davis played a role on the NBC Primetime TV miniseries “Bluff City Law” as a Shelby County Courthouse Deputy. (Click here for a clip.) In 2020, Davis became the director of the Derek Olivier Research Institute (DORI) for the Prevention of Gun Violence. In March 2021, Davis became host/producer of the newest HBCU radio show in the U.S. named “Keeping it Real with DORI” on ABC’s Buffalo Radio every Thursday at 6 p.m. (Click here.) This one-hour radio program is America’s first weekly internet radio broadcast designed to address Black male homicides as the basis for the show as the number 1 killer of Black males ages 1 to 44.

Davis enjoys spending time with his wife, Monica, and serving as deacon at Bountiful Blessings World Fellowship (BBWF) in Little Rock. They have one son named Kalon, who is a graduate of Arkansas Baptist College.

Click here to learn about the Succeed Scholarship!

Meet the Speaker: John

Meet the Speaker: John Kaminar

Meet the Speaker: John

MEET THE SPEAKER: John I. “Don” Kaminar is Arkansas’s compact commissioner for the Military Interstate Children’s Commission and chair of the Arkansas State Council. A member of the commission’s executive, he has previously chaired the rules committee and the training committee. At the 2018 Annual Business Meeting, he was elected to a one-year term as the commission’s national chair. HE was re-elected to two additional terms in 2019 and 2020.

Kaminar served as a teacher and administrator in Arkansas schools for 15 years before joining the Arkansas Department of Education as a curriculum specialist. In his current role as military and veterans’ liaison, he assists with resolving education issues for military families and veterans. He also oversees the department’s emergency preparedness program.

Kaminar began his military service in 1983 upon graduation from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in foreign languages and a commission as a second lieutenant of infantry in the Regular Army. After achieving qualification as a paratrooper and Ranger, he served an initial assignment in Germany, followed by six years with the 101st Airborne Division. He left the Regular Army in 1993 to become an educator, but continued to serve for the next 20 years in the Army Reserve. His reserve assignments included units in North Little Rock, Arkadelphia and Oklahoma City. He last served as state emergency preparedness liaison officer for Arkansas before retiring from the Army in 2013 with the rank of colonel.

During his 30 years in uniform, Kaminar has served with the international peacekeeping mission on the Egyptian-Israeli border and in combat in the Persian Gulf War and the War in Afghanistan. He has commanded units at company, battalion and brigade levels and had served on the general staffs of the 90th Regional Readiness Command, the 95th Division and the 101st Airborne Division. He holds a Master of Education degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and is a graduate of the Army’s Command and General Staff College and the Air Force’s Air Command and Staff College. His military decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Arkansas Exceptional Service Medal, as well as awards from Denmark, Germany, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and NATO.

The son, son-in-law and father of combat veterans, Kaminar resides in Maumelle with his wife, Toni.

Click here to learn about the Succeed Scholarship!

Meet the Speaker: Terri

Meet the Speaker: Terri Williams

Meet the Speaker: Terri

MEET THE SPEAKER: Terri Williams serves as the Child and Youth Education Services (CYES) School Liaison Program Manager with the 19th Force Support Squadron (19FSS) at Little Rock Air Force Base. She has served at the base since 2002 in the Child and Youth Programs supporting the military families as well as the surrounding community. Having personal experience understanding the military lifestyle, Williams has firsthand knowledge as she was a raised a military child turning military spouse and a mom, raising two very resilient military children while balancing the challenges each role brings.

Understanding the unique needs of the military child led Williams to earn her degree in Early Childhood Education focusing on providing care to military families and community support. After leaving active duty and arriving back in the Little Rock area, she embarked upon her career position with the LRAFB. Williams began serving the families by working with Child and Youth Programs within the Family Childcare office, the Child Development Center, and then the Youth Program, prior to her current position. Serving, educating and becoming a resource to military families has been her passion. In her current position, she fosters that passion by ensuring parents and scholars arrive at their new duty station with a smooth transition into their school district and their time here at Little Rock.

Williams has been focused on promoting partnerships within the base, local communities and families. Her work includes educating families on their resources, working with fostering the communities on military partnerships as well as the base on striving to provide the absolute best for families. While accomplishing these goals, Williams serves as the point of contact for numerous community and base events, along with organizations such as Operation Homefront. She has also been selected to serve on the Arkansas State Council of the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission. She also serves as resiliency instructor and a suicide/sexual assault prevention instructor for the base population. Williams also serves as an advisor for the Patient Family Partnership Council for the Medical Group at the base clinic. Due to her commitment to families, she has been selected as 19 FSS Civilian of the Quarter in 2013, 19 FSS Civilian of the Year in 2013 and Air Force A1 Civilian Program Manager of the Year – Installation Level in 2018.

Along with enjoying being back home and being close to her family, Williams enjoys her time outdoors either kayaking, spending time with grandkids at a park or just enjoying the beauty of Arkansas.

Click here to learn about the Succeed Scholarship!

67 legislators (almost half)

67 legislators are making the grade!

During the 2021 Arkansas legislative session, several bills focused on improving educational opportunities for students and increasing compensation for teachers. We graded legislators on how they voted on education-related legislation and are excited to announce that 67 legislators are making the grade!

See the grades in the document below!