Distance, finances will affect choices as Arkansas Educational Freedom Account rolls out – By Antoinette Grajeda, Arkansas Advocate
Arkansas’ new Children’s Educational Freedom Account program aims to expand education options for K-12 students, but questions remain about accessibility, especially for families in rural areas.
A provision of the LEARNS Act, the program will be phased in over three years and allow up to 90% of annual per-student public school funding for permissible education expenses, such as private-school tuition.
An Arkansas Department of Education spokesperson said the program is on track to begin in the coming school year and a work group that will help develop rules and policies for the initiative should be identified and meeting soon.
Proponents of the Educational Freedom Account program say it will give parents more options to choose whether their children attend public school, private schools or home school.
School choice debate shifts to the New Hampshire Senate- By Holly Ramer, AP News
New Hampshire’s school choice program was depicted as both a lifeline for struggling families and a blow to public education as debate moved to the state Senate on Tuesday.
The Senate Education Committee heard testimony on two House-passed bills to expand the voucher-like program that provides families with the same amount the state provides per pupil to public school districts to pay for private school tuition or home school expenses. One would increase the income cap for applicants; the other would expand eligibility to certain children regardless of family income, including those in foster care, homeless children and children who have been persistently bullied.
Currently, families earning up to 300% of the federal poverty limit are eligible for the grants, which are roughly $4,500 per child. Under the proposed change, the cap would increase to 350%, which is $105,000 for a family of four. But one of the bill’s sponsors said Tuesday he hopes that would be just the first step.
“We’d like to raise this incrementally over the years in front of us to get to a level where we’re going to support all parents who are looking for this choice program,” said Rep. Rick Ladd, a Republican from Haverhill.
Amid mental health concerns, new bill would allow NY students to opt out of lockdown drills – By Julian Shen Berro, Chalkbeat
New York lawmakers will seek to change the state’s school lockdown drill laws, as some parents argue the drills harm student mental health without clearly proven safety benefits.
Under state law, public schools must conduct lockdown drills at least four times each year. The new bill would drop the requirement to one, among other changes.
Though high-profile school shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Nashville, Tennessee, have raised further alarm among parents, educators, and school communities, some parents worry about the damaging effect that repeatedly forcing students and teachers to simulate an active shooter scenario could have on their child.
Two dads with children at a Manhattan elementary school spent the past year and a half pushing to reduce the number of drills and for more guardrails in how they are conducted and communicated with families.
A pandemic experiment in universal free school meals gains traction in the states – By Adam Goldstein, Michigan Advance
Every public school kid in the United States was eligible for free school meals during the COVID-19 pandemic, regardless of family income, thanks to the federal government.
While that’s now ended, a growing number of states across the country are enacting universal school meal laws to bolster child food security and academic equity. With little prospect of action soon in Congress, the moves by states show an appetite for free school meals for all developing beyond Washington.
Nine states have passed a temporary or permanent universal school meal policy in the past year. Another 23 have seen legislation introduced during the past three years, according to recent data from the Food Research and Action Center.
”As a former teacher, I know that providing free breakfast and lunch for our students is one of the best investments we can make to lower costs, support Minnesota’s working families, and care for our young learners and the future of our state,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, said when signing his state’s universal school meals bill on March 17.
“When we feed our children, we’re feeding our future,” said New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, also a Democrat, when she signed her state’s policy into law on March 28.