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Our key ally in Arkansas is Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, an organization that provides leadership, research, and advocacy to promote wide-ranging reforms that improved the lives of Arkansas children and their families. Their work includes advancing children’s health, early education, and family economic security.

2023 State Early Childhood Policy Environment and Progress

State early childhood policy progress is dependent both on the state’s policy environment and the numerous efforts — by those listed on this page and many others — who worked both independently and collaboratively to achieve wins for young children.

Early Childhood Landscape:

Research shows that family economic security is foundational to children’s overall wellbeing. Research also shows that widespread disparities in opportunity (especially by race) drive wide disparities in outcomes. States with policies that offer strong support to young children and their families are more likely to see 1) declining numbers of children in low-income households and 2) low racial disparity among those children. 

Young Children in Low-Income Households: Declining

Approximately 53% (175,000) of the state’s children 0-8 live in households below 200% FPL (2021). This number represents a decrease from 55% (188,000) in 2016.1

Racial Disparity Among Young Children Living in Low-Income Households: High

Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Native children aged 0-8 are significantly more likely to be living in households below 200% FPL than are Asian and non-Hispanic White children.2

Advocacy Landscape:

State General Fund Appropriations: Growing 

In April, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed the state’s budget bill for fiscal 2024. The budget totals $6.2 billion, a 2.95 percent increase from fiscal 2023 levels. Fiscal 2024 estimated gross general revenues are $8.06 billion while net available general revenues are $6.59 billion, an increase of $375 million, or 6 percent, from fiscal 2023 levels. The budget prioritizes distributions with two categories listed as A and B. The revenue forecast is expected to fully fund both categories.3

Key Revenue Sources: 

    • Personal Income Tax (.9% – 6.9%)
    • State Sales Tax (6.5%)

Political Alignment: Aligned Republican

During the 2023 session, the state’s Senate and House were both Republican controlled. The state’s Governor was also a Republican.4

Types of Ballot Measures Available:5  Five

    • Legislature-initiated state statutes: These appear on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.
    • Voter-initiated state statutes: These earn a spot on the ballot when sponsors collect signatures according to the laws governing the initiative process in Arkansas.
    • Legislature-initiated constitutional amendments: This is a constitutional amendment that appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.
    • Voter-Initiated constitutional amendments: This is an amendment to a state’s constitution that comes about through the initiative process.
    • Veto referendums: When citizens of Arkansas disagree with a statute or legislative bill enacted by the state legislature, they can collect signatures to force the issue to a vote. If enough signatures are collected, the bill is placed on the statewide ballot.

Key state policy advocacy organizations include:

Early childhood policy advocacy multi-state initiatives present in the state include:4

2023 Policy Progress:

Advocates in Arkansas attempted to expand access and affordability for early learning and to increase supports for the early childhood workforce during this year’s legislative session. They were ultimately unsuccessful in part because of the Governor’s K-12 education package, the LEARNS Act, dominating the conversation and the budget. However, there were a few wins that support children and families across the state and advocates are already looking ahead toward future opportunities.

Highlights from the state’s early childhood policy advocacy community include:7

Act 128 passed and will support pregnant and parenting students by allowing for related excused absences and by giving pregnant and parenting students the flexibility to complete missed school work. Arkansas has the highest teen birth rate in the nation, and this legislation will help reduce high school drop out rates and promote maternal and infant health.

Act 640 creates a state fund for the Imagination Library fund in Arkansas. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library sends an age appropriate book to children registered in the program from birth to 5 years old.

Act 675 will, pending federal approval, allow the Arkansas Department of Human Services to set Arkansas’s asset limit for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, previously known as “food stamps”) to the federal rate and will allow a family whose assets exceed that level a temporary limit of $5,500 for one year.

Act 562 requires Medicaid to reimburse providers for depression screening during someone’s pregnancy.

Act 316 requires insurance providers and Medicaid to cover depression screening for all pregnant persons at the time of birth.

Act 490 requires that all newborns be screened at birth for medical conditions as recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Ongoing Grantee Areas of Advocacy

The Alliance’s lead grantee in Arkansas, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, is working to advance early childhood policies in several areas that align with the Alliance’s birth-through-eight policy framework

Early Care and Education

Child Care

Child Care Workforce

K-3rd Grade

Preschool and Pre-K


Child and
Maternal Health

Maternal Health

Infant & Child Health


Family Economic Security

Early Childhood Infrastructure

Click here for more information on advocates’ policy agenda.



1 Kids Count Data Center, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, November, 2022 

2 National Center for Children in Poverty, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, March 2023, NCCP analysis of ACS 1-Year Estimates – Public Use Microdata Sample 2021

3 National Association of State Budget Officers, Summaries of Fiscal Year 2024 Enacted Budgets, October 11, 2023.

4 National Conference of State Legislatures, 2023 State & Legislative Partisan Composition, February 28, 2023.

5 Ballotpedia, Ballot Measures by State, Kids Count Data Center, retrieved May, 2023.

6 Alliance for Early Success, Multi-State Initiatives for Early Childhood Policy Advocacy, April, 2022.

7 Alliance for Early Success, State-Wide Advocacy Highlights Survey, April-August, 2023.  

More State Policy Data:


More State Demographic Data: