The Democratic challenger against Republican Asa Hutchinson for governor of Arkansas has called a bill that allows 529 college savings funds to be withdrawn for K-12 tuition a "backdoor school voucher program."
The passage of both bills are intended to be similar to a change in federal law, the Associated Press reported. Supporters of the change say its necessary so Arkansans don't face penalties on their state taxes if they withdraw funds for K-12 tuition, which includes private and religious institutions.
"The State Legislature, and Asa Hutchinson, want to use public funds to give a tax deduction for tuition to private and parochial schools," Henderson said. "This legislation drains millions from cash strapped public schools and gives our tax dollars to private schools with lower standards and more discrimination."
Opponents of the proposed law have raised concern over the cost of the program. Finance officials have said that it could cost up to $5.2 million per year.
Henderson claimed the bill would hurt rural and smaller towns.
The Arkansas Education Association voiced its opposition on Twitter, calling the bill a "multi-million dollar tax give away for private school tuition."
"The only K-12 benefactors will be private and parochial schools," said State Senator Joyce Elliot. "Public schools do not benefit in any way. Passed any way. I am very sorry."
Hutchinson supports the potential law as "a matter of policy," according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
"Bringing Arkansas's 529 plan in line with federal changes makes more sense than failing to do so, and as a result, maintaining a totally different 529 plan, which is based on federal rules that no longer exist," he said in a statement provided to state senators.
Both bills await the signature of Gov. Hutchinson.
We've reached out to Gov. Hutchinson for any further comment on the legislation.
The AP contributed to this report.