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Choice: Guide to PreK-12 Education in Arkansas

When it comes to public education, one size (or school, or system) doesn't fit all. Arkansas resident students and families, no matter their culture, economic status, or ZIP Code, have a right to the following public education choices:

  • Register, enroll at your assigned school of your resident school district
  • Apply for intra-district transfer to your school of choice within your resident school district
  • Apply for inter-district transfer to your school of choice in a non-resident district (Deadline May 1st)
    • Application/Rules
    • Deadline (May 1)
      "This application must be filed in the nonresident district or postmarked no later than May 1 of the year in which the applicant would begin the fall semester at the nonresident district."
    • Appeal
      "A student whose application for transfer is rejected by the nonresident district may request a hearing before the State Board of Education to reconsider the transfer by filing such a request in writing with the Commissioner of Education no later than ten (10) days after the student or student’s parent receives a notice of rejection."
    • Circuit Court Relief
      If the appeal before the State Board of Education is denied, the Attorney General's Opinion of July 7, 2015 speculates "that a parent of a student would mount a challenge by seeking relief from a court of competent jurisdiction."

School Choice Exemptions 

Only one school district (El Dorado) has been allowed by a U.S. District Court to choose not to participate in Arkansas's Inter-district School Choice. The seven school districts of Garland County participate in race-based school choice, enabled by a U.S. District Court, but are seeking resolution of their ancient federal case in order to fully participate in choice which is available to all, no matter race.

The Jacksonville/North Pulaski School District's basis for exemption (2014 Desegregation Settlement Agreement) expires at the end of this school year, and yet its board voted 4-2 to seek exemption from school choice in 2019-20. That decision is being reviewed by the Arkansas Department of Education, as the district is required to submit a conflicting federal court order, which it no longer has.

However, nothing precludes Arkansans, including those in El Dorado, from applying for School Choice transfer to or from any of these districts by the appropriate deadline (January 1 - May 1 in the year transfer is sought), then pursuing appeal to the State Board of Education and/or federal court.

If you would like to launch, support a public campaign(s) to convince any of the aforementioned districts to choose Choice, contact Gary Newton,


Arkansas Department of Education


Arkansas Department of Education


University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy


Top 5%, 6-10% Performing and Improving Schools in Arkansas

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