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

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.

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.

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 (
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
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

Virtual events, drive-in movie and drive-thru events lined up for #SchoolChoiceWeek

The cars have changed, and technology has improved over the years, but MP Outdoor Cinema in Little Rock brings back memories of pink Cadillacs, poodle skirts and “Singing in the Rain.”

It’s also the perfect place to celebrate National School Choice Week during a pandemic. The Reform Alliance is hosting a free showing of the movie “Miss Virginia” at the MP Outdoor Cinema at 6700 Allied Way in Little Rock at 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30.

The Reform Alliance is hosting a showing of "Miss Virginia" at MP Outdoor Cinema, shown in this image. The drive-in setting with socially distanced cars creates a safe environment for people to watch the movie together. “Miss Virginia” is based on the true story of a single mother who challenges the system in an effort to ensure her son gets a good education.

“It’s the perfect way to conclude National School Choice Week,” said Valerie Pruitt, community engagement advocate at The Reform Alliance. “We’re still practicing safe social distancing protocols, but we get to get out, enjoy a movie and learn more about educational opportunities in Arkansas.”

National School Choice Week kicks off Jan. 25 with a dance challenge to the song “Start Your Day Right Here” by Analog and Steve Celi. The Reform Alliance will share videos of the choreography and invites the public to share videos of themselves performing the dance to compete for social media recognition and a TRA Swag Bag. Anyone can enter by posting the video and tagging @arreformalliance on TikTok or The Reform Alliance on Facebook by Sunday, Jan. 31. The winners will be announced Wednesday, Feb. 3.

In partnership with the Arkansas State Teachers Association, The Reform Alliance will also be engaging students in the celebration with an essay competition during National School Choice Week, and winners will be announced on Facebook.

The festivities continue at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26, with a Netflix watch party of “Miss Virginia” so that viewers from anywhere in the state  (or beyond) can chat and share thoughts about the film in a virtual environment. In order to participate, individuals must have a Netflix account.

Another virtual event – a town hall discussion – will begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 27. Subject matter experts will lead a discussion about the different education options available to students in Arkansas: public schools (including charter and magnet schools), private schools, microschools, homeschools and virtual schools. Attendees can join the discussion via Zoom, and it will be available to watch on The Reform Alliance’s Facebook page as well.

“At its core, National School Choice Week is about letting families know what educational options are available, so we are really looking forward to the town hall discussion,” said Emmy Henley, managing director at The Reform Alliance. “Our panelists can help families identify the possibilities with each option.”


On Friday, Jan. 29,  everyone is invited to wear yellow to celebrate National School Choice Week and share photos on social media with #SchoolChoiceWeek and #SchoolChoiceforAR.

These events and activities in Arkansas are just a few of the available activities going on nationwide.

“For everyone in our country, School Choice Week is a chance to have a conversation about why every student deserves a great education,” Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week, said in a video explaining the event. “There’s something for everyone during School Choice Week, and that’s why there are tens of thousands of activities and events.”

Nonprofit applauds efforts to help low-income families find learning solutions during pandemic

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Dec. 29, 2020) – The Reform Alliance, a nonprofit focused on improving education in Arkansas, announced its support for the executive order authorizing the use of the federal grant money to boost education efforts during the pandemic.

On Monday, Dec. 28, President Donald Trump signed the executive order giving states the option to use Community Service Block Grant funding to provide emergency learning scholarships for students. The scholarships would cover the costs for low-income students without access to in-person learning through traditional means to use alternative learning options, like attending in-person classes at a private or religious school, joining a learning pod, homeschooling or using private tutoring or education services.

The executive order is a positive step toward securing equal access to learning at a time when low-income students are at risk for falling further behind, according to Emmy Henley, managing director for The Reform Alliance.

“It’s important for students to have access to a learning environment where they can thrive, and virtual learning does not suit everyone, ” Henley said. “The emergency learning scholarships could help Arkansas students find the instruction method that fits them best so that they can continue learning even during the pandemic.”

Click here to read the executive order. 

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


Microschool launch changes lives

While most students enjoyed a movie break during the Christmas party, one student at Lighthouse Homeschooling Cooperative chose to return to her computer to do extra math problems. Lighthouse had recently implemented the Prenda microschool learning model, so this student knew she was in charge of her education … and she wasn’t going to waste a minute.

A child choosing extra classwork over a movie may seem pretty unusual in itself, but what made the moment even more extraordinary was that only a couple weeks before, this same student had been resistant to schoolwork. She had been in a self-contained classroom for behavioral issues for years in a public school. By the time she arrived at Lighthouse, she had all but given up on education, and even her first few weeks at Lighthouse were pretty rocky.

The situation changed when Lighthouse’s learning guides, Amanda and Jeremy Escue, started using the Prenda learning model and educational tools.

“We gave her the reigns, and now she is taking off,” Amanda Escue said. “Now, she is seeking more learning; she wants to do more.”

The Escues lead one of the Prenda microschools being launched in Arkansas through efforts of The Reform Alliance. A microschool is an alternative method of learning where small groups study with a trained learning guide, usually at the guide’s home, a church or other similar environment.

Prenda, the organization that developed the microschool model, emphasizes creating a flexible learning environment where students are empowered to make decisions about their education.

“It’s really amazing to see how a child begins to thrive when you give him or her an educational environment that fits their needs,” said Emmy Henley, managing director of The Reform Alliance. “The model, whether it be public school, private school, microschool or other option, needs to fit the kid, rather than trying to fit the kid to the model.”

The Reform Alliance has provided scholarships through a privately funded grant to establish 10 microschools in the state. The scholarships were awarded to low-income students who qualified for free or reduced lunches.

About 30 people attended Arkansas Prendacon on Dec. 2.

On Dec. 2, the organization brought together about 30 learning guides, parents and others interested in learning more about microschools at Arkansas Prendacon, an all-day event designed to help them make personal connections with representatives from Prenda.

Some microschools, like Lighthouse, have already launched, and others will start in January. Henley said they have already been receiving feedback from the families that have started using Prenda.

“Families are already seeing improvement,” Henley said. “Each child has an individualized learning path, and we are already seeing kids become more engaged.”

This was the case with the student at Lighthouse, whose name is being withheld for privacy purposes. Lighthouse has been operating as a cooperative homeschooling option for children with autism for about four years. Amanda Escue said they have felt alone in their efforts, so they were really excited when they got connected with Prenda and with other like-minded families at Prendacon.

“It was very encouraging to see so many people across the state that have a burden for educational options for children in Arkansas and to see a unified movement growing here,” she said.

The Escues learned a lot from Prenda’s training, but they are also benefiting from the educational tools, like Dreambox, Lexia and Treasure Hunt.

“Prenda really makes it possible for someone to jump right in,” Amanda Escue said. “We have struggled to come up with solutions on our own over the years, but Prenda has already laid the groundwork. The technology has really helped with classroom logistics.”

After attending Prendacon, the Escues started blending in Prenda’s learning model and technology on Dec. 7, and they have already been seeing heartening results.

“We have been watching lives being changed,” Amanda Escue said.

2020 Graduations and Senior Resources


2020 Graduations and Senior Resources

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….