LITTLE ROCK -- More than 80 private and parochial schools in Arkansas have so far applied to participate in the state's new school voucher program that allows eligible students to use taxpayer funds to help pay tuition, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
The newspaper said that dozens of schools and more than 4,900 students have so far applied to participate in the program.
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders in March signed an education bill that included the creation of the new school voucher program. Over three years, it will phase in an "education freedom account" to pay for private- and home-schooling costs equal to 90% of the state's per-student funding for public schools, which is currently $7,413.
The legislation came as part of a renewed push for such voucher programs following the COVID-19 pandemic and fights over school curriculum.
The newspaper reports that eligibility this year is limited to those who either will be entering kindergarten, attended a state F-graded school last year, have a disability, are children of active military personnel or have experienced homelessness or foster care. The student eligibility criteria will expand over the next two years.
The newspaper reported that more than 4,900 students had opened applications for the vouchers of $6,672 to be used this school year. The student number includes approved applications, those in review, and those in the draft process, Division of Elementary and Secondary Education spokesperson Kimberly Mundell said.