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What you need to know about School Choice in Arkansas

There are two new rules regarding School Choice and one of them aims to make transitioning easier for military families.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Many districts are accepting applications for the Public School Choice program for the next school year.

There are two new rules regarding School Choice. One of them aims to make transitioning easier for military families.

“School Choice is just another tool in the toolbox. It’s something that families can decide whether that’s best for their student,” Attorney Supervisor Jennifer Dedman said.

‘School Choice’ allows students to go to a public school in a nonresident district.

“You’ve got Public School Choice and you’ve got Opportunity School Choice. Opportunity School Choice is only used for people who are attending a school that has a letter grade of F, or if you’re attending a school district that's in need of Level 5 Intensive Support,” Dedman said.

Not every public school is able to participate. Those that have active federal desegregation orders or court plans cannot.

Two new laws passed in 2019 that you need to be aware of this time around.

“From the time that a military family arrives in the state, if they are living on base, they have 15 days that they can apply for School Choice. They’re not tied to that May 1st deadline,” Dedman said.

The use of Opportunity School Choice has also expanded.

“You can also use it if you are attending a school that is classified with a letter grade F,” Dedman said.

Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD) said they’re still getting in the swing of the practice.

“I would not say in our second year it’s been an advantage or disadvantage because it’s been like a revolving window where we have a hundred kids who leave our district, but then we have 120 that we accept into our district,” PCSSD Asst. Superintendent Dr. Janice Warren said.

She said parents in their area are still getting the gist of how this process works.

“After the second year for us, I’m hopeful that those numbers will increase, and of course, that will be a great advantage,” Warren said.

You can find information about school districts across the state here.

The Arkansas Department of Education will post a FAQ page on their site this month to help answer any questions.

"I think a common misconception is if you ask for a certain school, then you're entitled to go to a specific school,” Dedman said.

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