Senate Bill 680, introduced by Republican Sen. Jonathan Dismang, passed in the Arkansas House on a 52-40 vote.

Add yet another state to the list of those whose legislatures are supporting the expansion of education choice this year: Arkansas.

The Arkansas House last week approved a $2 million state income tax credit program to fund private school scholarships for low-income students. Senate Bill 680 passed in the House on a 52-40 vote after an hour of debate.

The legislation would create the Philanthropic Investment in Arkansas Program, providing scholarships for about 250 students whose family income is less than or equal to 200% of the federal poverty level. That amounts to $53,000 a year for a household of four.

House sponsor Rep. Ken Bragg, R-Sheridan, said public schools serve most students well, but some need resources their families can’t afford, and SB680 would help that relatively small number of children.

“There’s always exceptions where a child might need a different educational experience,” Bragg said. “Lower-income families don’t have the ability to take advantage of the options that most of us in this chamber have.”

Other legislators who spoke in support of the bill recounted the positive impacts of private schools in their lives and in the lives of their children and grandchildren.

“This is a small, minuscule, tiny amount to help some kids in our state that are not going to have the chance otherwise,” said Rep. Mary Bentley, R-Perryville.

The bill is awaiting Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s signature. Hutchinson, a Republican, is supportive of the bill and plans to sign it according to a spokeswoman.

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