Jared Henderson, a Democratic candidate for governor, has issued a news release blasting the new legislation that provides a direct taxpayer subsidy for K-12 private school costs, calling it a “backdoor voucher” plan.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson endorsed the legislation.

Henderson’s release:

Today, Jared Henderson, Democratic candidate for Governor, said he opposed legislation that would amend the Arkansas Tax-Deferred Tuition Savings Program because it is a backdoor school voucher program.

“We should not use tax dollars to fund private school education, but that is what we’re about to do. The legislation currently before the General Assembly is a backdoor school voucher program to funnel public dollars into private schools,” said Henderson. “The State Legislature, and Asa Hutchinson, want to use public funds to give a tax deduction for tuition to private and parochial schools. This legislation drains millions from cash strapped public schools and gives our tax dollars to private schools with lower standards and more discrimination. Finally, the backdoor school vouchers hurt rural and small town areas that don’t have private schools.”

“This backdoor school voucher program is the first-step toward sending taxpayer dollars to private schools which will ultimately leave our public schools with fewer resources to educate our children, “ said Henderson. “There is nothing that requires the “voucherizing” of 529 plans and we certainly shouldn’t decide to take this step at a completely arbitrary time and with an absurdly rushed special session that does not allow for real public debate. If the Governor and the Legislature want to spend time on true emergencies in education, they should focus more on helping our rural communities attract more educators and retain the excellent ones they already have.”

The legislature was told by state finance officials that the plan could cost $5.2 million a year. While approving this giveaway, the legislature refused to provide additional funding for special ed students, pre-K and after-school tutoring needs.


The bill allows married couples to deduct up to $10,000 a year from state income taxes when deposited in a 529 savings plans. The money can be withdrawn, including untaxed earnings on the savings, for K-12 education. This partially conforms with changes in the federal 529 program, originally only for college savings. But the federal plan doesn’t allow contributions to be tax deductible. In only provides tax-exemption to withdrawals.

Correction: I originally identified Henderson as the Democratic nominee. He is one of two Democratic candidates. The other is Leticia Sanders.