(October 2023) Nearly 5,000 Arkansas K-12 students have taken advantage of the education savings account (ESA) component of the LEARNS Act, according to a Policy Foundation analysis of state Department of Education data.

LEARNS is a major education reform advanced by Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders. It is an acronym for literacy, empowerment, accountability, readiness, networking and safety. LEARNS includes education freedom accounts, a type of ESA that “may be used by eligible families to cover private school tuition, fees, uniforms, and some other required expenses.” The accounts “provide funding up to 90% of the State’s prior year per-student foundation funding amount,” according to the state Department of Education. (1)

ESAs “establish for parents a publicly funded, government-authorized savings account with restricted, but multiple uses for educational purposes. Parents may use the funds to pay for expenses including: school tuition, tutoring, online education programs, therapies for students with special needs, textbooks or other instructional materials, and sometimes, save for college,” according to edChoice, a non-profit organization in Indianapolis, Indiana. (2)

Pulaski County Leads ESA Enrollment

Statewide, 4,795 students utilize LEARNS ESAs. More than half  (2,487) are enrolled in Pulaski County private schools, followed by Washington, Sebastian, Benton and Faulkner counties.   The enrollment data informs earlier Policy Foundation research that identifies these counties with well-developed school choice markets. (3)

The following chart shows LEARNS Act ESA student enrollment by county. (4)

Pulaski                         2,487

Washington                     479

Sebastian                       323

Benton                             288

Faulkner                          208

Saline                             152

White                               124

Craighead                       119

Union                                90

Crittenden                         73

Conway                             69

Drew                                 64

Sevier                                40

Miller                                 36

Columbia                           34

Pope                                 34

Randolph                          34

Crawford                           26

Logan                                23

Greene                              20

Garland                             16

St. Francis                        15

Ouachita                           14

Carroll                               12

Arkansas                             9

Lonoke                                5

Shelby Co., TN.                  1

Total                            4,795


The following chart shows LEARNS Act ESA enrollment by county and school.

Arkansas       Holy Rosary Catholic, 9 students.

Benton           St. Vincent De Paul Catholic, 87; Life Way Christian, 84; Providence Academy, 72;Bentonville Christian Academy, 24; Leap Frog Montessori, 10; Clover Community School, 9; Community Christian School, 2.

Carroll Academy of Excellence, 7; Clear Spring School, 5.

Columbia       Columbia Christian, 34.

Conway          Sacred Heart Catholic, 69.

Craighead      Lighthouse Homeschool Cooperative, 55; Blessed Sacrament Catholic, 25; The Academy of the Learning Center, 23; Eighty-Twenty Learning for ASD, 16.

Crawford        Joshua Academy, 26.

Crittenden      West Memphis Christian, 68; St. Michael’s Catholic, 5.

Drew               Cornerstone Christian Academy, 64.

Faulkner         St. Joseph Catholic School, 106; Compass Academy, 102.

Garland          St. John’s Catholic, 16.

Greene           Arrows Academy, 20.

Logan             St. Joseph Catholic, 12; Subiaco Academy, 11.

Lonoke           Cabot Christian School, 5.

Miller              Trinity Christian, 36.

Ouachita        Victory Christian, 14.

Pope               St. John’s Catholic, 19; Valley Christian School, 15.

Pulaski           Little Rock Christian Academy, 324; Central Arkansas Christian, 224; Pulaski Academy, 190; Episcopal Collegiate, 175; Baptist Preparatory, 173; Christ The King Catholic, 172; Calvary Academy, 129; Immaculate Conception Catholic, 119; Our Lady of Holy Souls, 114; Abundant Life, 95; Access Academy 90; Catholic High  School For Boys, 81; Anthony School, 80: Easter Seals Arkansas-The Academy at Riverdale, 71; Southwest Christian Academy, 67; Mt. St. Mary Academy, 59; Christ Lutheran, 49; North         Little Rock Catholic Academy, 42; St. Theresa Catholic, 36; Friendship Lab School for Dyslexia, 36; North River Christian Academy, 30; Immaculate Heart Mary Catholic, 25; New Life Christian, 25; Central Arkansas   Montessori,21; The Huda School, 18; Agape Academy, 14; Pinnacle Classical Academy, 10; Shiloh Excel Christian, 9; Sherwood Christian Ac., 8;Cedar Christian Ac., 1.

Randolph       St. Paul Catholic, 34.

Saline Arkansas Christian Academy, 110; Our Lady of Fatima Catholic, 22; Avilla Christian Academy, 16; Cornerstone Montessori Christian Academy, 4.

Sebastian       Union Christian, 73; Immaculate Conception Catholic, 69; First Lutheran, 55;        Christ The King Catholic, 50; Trinity Catholic Junior High, 32; Harvest Time          Christian Academy, 28; Fort Smith Montessori, 16.

Sevier Legacy Academy, 40.

St. Francis     Calvary Christian, 15.

Union  West Side Christian, 80; Maranatha Baptist Christian, 10.

Washington   Shiloh Christian, 209; St. Joseph Catholic, 117; Fayetteville Christian, 37; FirstAcademy, 33; Prism Education Center, 22; Anthem Classical Academy, 21; Ozark Catholic, 15; The Grace School, 15; Fayetteville Nature School, 10.

White  Harding Academy, 97; CrossPointe Preparatory School, 17; Liberty Christian School, 10.

Shelby, TN.    Madonna Learning Center, 1.

Research Questions

Has the Little Rock School District’s past designation as a failing district (2015) influenced student enrollment in Pulaski County private schools?

Which rural schools are most likely to expand LEARNS ESA enrollment?

— Greg Kaza



(1) Arkansas Department of Education, “Arkansas Education Freedom Accounts”


(2)  www.edchoice.org

What is an Education Savings Account (ESA)?

(3) Policy Foundation research memos, “Pulaski School Choice Market Tops 20,000” (November 2021); and “Top 25 County School Choice Markets” (December 2020).

(4) Arkansas Department of Education, “Education Freedom Account Annual Report: 2023-2024 School Year.” Enrollment as of September 20, 2023

230920_EFA Transparency Report_v3 (state.ar.us)