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Arkansas

Our key ally in Arkansas is ForwARd Arkansas, a public-private partnership of the Arkansas State Board of Education, the Walton Family Foundation, and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. They work to increase equity, increase student achievement, and close the achievement gap. Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families is a ForwARd Arkansas grant partner.

State Policy Environment and 2021 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.

Advocacy Landscape:

Policy Landscape and Progress:

$5.69B State Budget

Estimated FY2021 State General Fund Expenditures

ALIGNED GOVERNMENT
House (R), Senate (R)
Governor (R)

52% LOW-INCOME CHILDREN
173,765 Young Children (0-8) are Below 200% FPL

PERCENTAGE OF YOUNG CHILDREN WHO ARE LOW-INCOME; DISAGGREGATED BY RACE

Percentage of Children 0-8 Below 200% FPL (and Population)

78% of Non-Hispanic Black (43,852)

68% of Hispanic/Latinx (28,214)

66% of Indigenous/AK Native (775)

43% of Non-Hispanic White (89,206)

23% of Asian (1,515)

Heading into the 2021 legislative session, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and ForwARd Arkansas had three key priorities:

Inform and influence Arkansas’ policymakers’ response to COVID-19 and its effects on early care and education.

Advocate for enactment of refundable tax credits for early childhood educators in Arkansas.

Promote expanded support for infant care in Arkansas—particularly through family child-care settings.

Arkansas’ 2021 legislative session became mired in attempts to curtail racial equity and LGBTQ rights, voting rights, public safety net programs, and public health measures designed to protect citizens during the pandemic. Meeting restrictions imposed at the capitol during legislative session limited interaction with legislators, hindered the ability of advocates to influence the legislative process, and reduced public transparency on legislative actions. For example, the refusal of legislative leadership to allow virtual testimony on proposed legislation before committees reduced the ability of advocates and citizens to express their views on legislation.

In spite of the challenging 2021 environment, early childhood advocates across the state made progress in some key areas: 

    • Defeated a major private school voucher bill that would have reduced funding for public education.
    • Worked to defeat the elimination of the soda tax that helps fund the state’s Medicaid trust fund.
    • Worked to defeat an effort to cut unemployment benefits.
    • SB 56. Child Care and Early Childhood Education Appropriations: Makes an appropriation for personal services and operating expenses for Dept. of Human Services – Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education for the fiscal year ending specified date (NCSL).
    • SB 409. Department of Education Save the Children Appropriation: Regarding Dept. of Education – Save the Children appropriation, provides grant for statewide in-school, summer, and after school literacy, nutrition, home visiting and early childhood programs (NCSL).
    • HB 1098. Requires notice to certain persons when a sex offender is on the premises of a childcare facility, concerns the presence of a sex offender on the premises of a childcare facility (NCSL).
    • HB 1728. Amends the law related to campaign finance, allows campaign funds to pay childcare expenses, amends portions of Initiated Act 1 of 1990 and Initiated Act 1 of 1996 (NCSL).

GOING FORWARD:

Top Alliance Grant Priorities in Arkansas for 2022

Inform plans and influence allocations of federal funds distributed to Arkansas which target early care and education.

Advocate for better and more equitable compensation for early childhood educators in Arkansas.

 

Promote supports for family child care.

Engage and advise members of the early care and education sector to advocate on their own behalf.

DATA SOURCES:

National Center for Children in Poverty, “NCCP analysis of ACS 1-Year Estimates – Public Use Microdata Sample, 2019.” Provided to the Alliance for Early Success, November 2020.

National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). 2021 State & Legislative Partisan Composition, February 1, 2021. August 2021.

NCSL. Early Care and Education Bill Tracking, Searchable Database for 2021. August 2021.

Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau. “Population of Children Aged 0 to 8 (2019),” (as cited in Annie E. Casey Foundation, Kids Count Data Center). November 2020.  

State Grantees of the Alliance for Early Success, Survey and Analysis by Frontera Strategy, September-November 2021.

Vesey White, Kathryn, et al. (Spring 2021). “Table 4: Fiscal 2020 State General Fund, Estimated (Millions),” The Fiscal Survey of States. National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO). August 2021.