Information for Private Schools

What are the eligibility criteria for private schools to participate in the EFA program?

Private schools must meet several up-front eligibility requirements to participate in the Education Freedom Accounts program:

Accreditation

  • The list of approved accrediting organizations can be found here.
  • Meet accreditation requirements established by the State Board of Education, the Arkansas Nonpublic School Accrediting Association, or another accrediting association recognized by the State Board, or​
  • Be an associate member of, or be in the process of applying to, the Arkansas Nonpublic School Accrediting Association or another accrediting association recognized by the State Board.

Financial

  • Be in operation for at least one (1) year, or provide ADE with a note from a certified public accountant verifying that the school is insured and has sufficient capital to operate, or file a surety bond or letter of credit with ADE equal to funds needed in any quarter.

Employees

  • Employ or contract with only teachers who have a baccalaureate degree or equivalent experience​.
  • Complete background checks and fingerprinting for any school employee and maintain a database of these records.

Administrative Compliance

  • Comply with state laws governing private schools and applicable health and safety laws​.
  • Adhere to the school’s published disciplinary procedures before expelling a participating student​.
  • Hold valid occupancy of buildings as required by the school’s municipality.

Testing & Reporting

  • Administer a nationally norm-referenced test approved by the ADE to participating students on an annual basis and provide aggregated student testing results for state reporting, or​
  • Prepare a portfolio of student progress for those exempt from testing (due to the existence of an Individual Service Plan (ISP) & significant cognitive disability), or​
  • Provide an approved alternative assessment to those exempt from testing (due to the existence of an Individual Service Plan (ISP) & significant cognitive disability).

How can my private school apply to participate in the EFA program?

Applications opened April 1, 2024 and can be found here.

School Applications

  Private School EFA Renewal

  New Private School Application

What are the ADE-approved accrediting organizations?

You can find a link to the approved accrediting organizations here.  If your accrediting organization is not on this list, but you think it might be eligible, please contact the EFA office.

What tests are approved by ADE?

You can find a link to the program's current list of approved tests here. Don’t see your school’s test on this list? Please contact ADE! ADE intends to review and approve additional tests as needed.

How do I report test scores to ADE?

The Office of School Choice and Parent Empowerment will notify approved schools of the details for reporting scores each spring. Schools will be required to list the test each child was administered and percentile scores for relevant categories. 

What are the administrative responsibilities for a participating private school?

Schools that receive Education Freedom Account funds are subject to three ongoing responsibilities designed to protect EFA integrity:

NOTIFY

  • Participating schools are responsible for verifying the initial enrollment of a participating student through an ADE portal for the upcoming academic year.​
  • Schools must re-verify participating student enrollment status before each of the State’s quarterly disbursements.

TEST

  • Participating schools are responsible for annually administering a nationally norm-referenced test that has been approved by ADE.
  • Participating schools must report test results​ OR portfolios/alternate assessments for students qualifying for a testing exemption​.
  • Participating schools only must provide testing for participating students.

COMPLY

  • Participating schools must comply with audit requests if they are randomly selected as part of ADE’s annual financial audit.

For the 2023-2024 school year, eligible expenses include tuition / fees, uniforms, testing and other items that participating schools deem to be required (e.g., notebooks). Starting in the 2024-25 school year, qualifying expenses expand to instructional materials, tutoring services, curricula, supplemental supplies, certain technology devices, transportation costs, and fees for college courses. Tuition expenses should be prioritized over other eligible expense types; families should confirm that they first cover tuition-related expenses.​

 

What happens if a student withdraws from my school?


Schools are only eligible to receive payment for the cost of tuition associated with the time a participating student is enrolled in and attending the school.  If a student unenrolls early in a quarterly period and the fund disbursement has already been made to the school, the school must return these excess funds to the ADE. A determination of the amount that needs to be returned will be made by the ADE (a pro-rated calculation will be made). Any outstanding amount owed by the family as determined by school policy is to be handled between families and schools.


Will private schools be required to comply with federal IDEA requirements and adhere to IEP requirements for students with disabilities if they accept EFA students?


Private schools are exempt from federal requirements under IDEA, and parents may be required to waive procedural obligations and rights under IDEA at the time of EFA application. Many private schools offer services for special education students and develop their own individualized plans to meet special education student needs, but this differs by student need and by private school in Arkansas. If a family elects to utilize EFA funds and enroll in a private school of their choice, they are encouraged to engage with their private school of choice and determine if the specific schools’ services and programming will meet the needs of their child. Schools are encouraged to engage in direct discussions with families and provide clear information to families about their special education offerings. 

Will private schools have to change or adapt their disciplinary procedures if they receive EFA funds?

No. Participating schools must publish and adhere to their existing disciplinary procedures but are not required to adapt their procedures as part of receiving Education Freedom Account funds, so long as they do not discriminate on any basis prohibited by 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, as it existed on January 1, 2023.

Will private schools have to change or adapt curriculum if they receive EFA funds?

Starting in 2024-25, participating schools must offer core subjects of ELA, math, science, and social studies. Most private schools in Arkansas already offer these subjects.  Schools’ religious affiliation or curriculum will not be impacted by the receipt of Education Freedom Account funds.

Do participating private schools have to change their existing admissions criteria or processes?

No. Participating schools’ existing admission timelines, criteria, and processes are not impacted by Education Freedom Accounts. Participating schools are asked to communicate their acceptance of participating students to ADE.

Who do I contact for help with the EFA program?

Office of School Choice and Parent Empowerment
Arkansas Department of Education
Division of Elementary and Secondary Education
Four Capitol Mall
Little Rock, AR 72201
Phone: 501-683-1876
Email: ade.efa@ade.arkansas.gov

Class Wallet Support
Phone: 877-969-5536
Email: help@classwallet.com