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### Criticism from Education Policy Expert on Proposed Regulation of Private Schools in Arkansas

School choice opponents in Arkansas are pushing for the regulation of private schools through a constitutional amendment proposal.

The initiative, backed by the state teachers’ union, an NAACP chapter, and other advocates for public education, aims to mandate that private schools receiving state or local funding adhere to the same regulations as public schools.

Nicholas Horton, the founder and CEO of Opportunity Arkansas, criticized the group supporting the measure, stating, “This is a very ideological group that is very hostile to education freedom. They’re antagonistic towards parents and kids.”

The proposed amendment would necessitate all elementary and secondary schools funded by the state or local authorities to meet uniform Academic Standards and Standards for Accreditation. Additionally, all students enrolled in these schools would be evaluated based on these standards.

Essentially, the proposal would compel private schools to operate akin to public schools, a concerning prospect in a state where a significant number of public school students struggle to meet basic academic criteria.

Horton highlighted the educational challenges in Arkansas, stating, “We’re last or near last in most major education metrics, in terms of reading, math, and literacy. We’ve got two out of three kids in Arkansas that can’t read at grade level.”

Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders introduced universal school choice legislation last March, marking Arkansas’s entry into the education reform movement. The Education Freedom Account (EFA) program, implemented under this legislation, garnered significant interest, with nearly half of the applicants approved in the first year.

Despite opposition from critics who advocate for government regulations accompanying education funding, Horton emphasized that public funding can be allocated differently, drawing parallels to other welfare programs like food stamps and Medicaid.

The proposed constitutional amendment, if enacted, could potentially stifle private schools by subjecting them to stringent state regulations, ultimately impeding their autonomy and innovative practices.

Moreover, the vague language of the amendment raises concerns about its impact on homeschooling and other independent educational models.

To secure a spot on the ballot, the proposed amendment requires an estimated 90,000 signatures. Subsequently, voters would have the final say on its adoption in an election.

Anticipation for the EFA program’s universal availability is high among Arkansas parents, with over 60% expressing intent to participate.

Horton emphasized the importance of maintaining strong public schools while cautioning against restricting educational choices and eliminating competition and accountability in the education sector.

In conclusion, he stressed that such measures would not benefit parents, families, or the future generation of Arkansas students.