University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Issues that the Ledge Might Tackle — School Transportation Funding

In The View from the OEP on November 19, 2014 at 11:32 am

Untitled3In the months leading up to the 2015 General Assembly, we are highlighting education topics that may be considered during the session (read our last post on charter school facilities funding). This week, we’re releasing a policy brief examining transportation funding in Arkansas.

In September, the Joint House and Senate Education Committee heard from Picus Odden & Associates on Arkansas’ school funding matrix. (See the Picus Odden & Associates report here.) During the report, Picus Odden & Associates recommended that the state change how it allocates transportation funding to districts to account for variation in district spending on transportation.

Currently, local, state, and federal funding is spent on transportation. The state distributes funding to districts for transportation as a part of the unrestricted foundation formula, as transportation funding is a line item in the matrix. Picus Odden & Associates recommended that the state change how it allocates transportation funding due to the following reasons:

  • In 2012-13, the foundation formula accounted of $309.90 per pupil for transportation funding; however, on average, districts spent $452.06 per pupil. [1]
  • There are large discrepancies in per pupil spending on transportation among districts in any given year. For example, in 2012-13, Hillcrest School District spent $1,277 per pupil on transportation costs, while the West Memphis School District spent $147 per pupil on transportation costs.[1]

Today, we are releasing a policy brief to dig into the issues with the current funding structure for school transportation. In doing so, we explain how other states account for variation in transportation costs. For example, in Arizona, transportation funding is allocated to districts with a density formula based on the average daily route mileage per eligible pupil transported.

Additionally, the policy brief discusses transportation funding for charter schools. In 2012-13, three open-enrollment charter schools did not spend any money on transportation, while other charter schools spent just as much as the average traditional school district. We have noticed that transportation has become an issue in a number of charter hearings or renewal hearings in the past couple of years. Representatives from some charter schools have stated that they would like to attract a more diverse student body (racially and socio-economically), but the lack of additional funding for transportation made it difficult to serve this population, who typically rely on school-provided transportation to get to school. While charters receive the same amount of funding for transportation as traditional school districts do (through the foundation formula), we see that charter schools have lower levels of total revenue than their traditional district counterparts overall. (Read our recent blog post and policy brief on this issue here.)

In the months and years to come, we believe that it will be important for Arkansas policymakers and education officials to determine whether the state has a fair system to fund school transportation for Arkansas’ school districts. To do so, it will be important to consider how other states fund school transportation and account for variation in spending among districts. We hope our policy brief adds to this discussion!

Other resources that examine transportation funding in Arkansas:

[1] Spending data from the Annual Statistical Report. Per pupil data based on enrollment figures in the stated year to best approximate how much money is spent per pupil in each year (We find slightly different figures  from the Bureau of Legislative Research reports because we include all spending on transportation based on enrollment numbers.)

Introducing Arkansas’ New House & Senate Education Committees

In The View from the OEP on November 12, 2014 at 11:44 am

Arkansas_House_of_RepresentativesLast Friday (November 7), the Arkansas House of Representatives selected committee assignments; and of note to our readers, the House Education Committee is nearly evenly split between new and old members.

While the Republicans have a majority in the House (64 seats), the House Education Committee is one of two committees with an equal number of Republicans (10) and Democrats (10). The only other committee to be divided evenly by party lines is the Insurance and Commerce Committee.

Without further ado, here is the new committee…

New members to the House Education Committee:

Returning members to the House Education Committee:

UPDATE:

On Friday, November 14, the Arkansas Senate selected committee assignments.

New members to the Senate Education Committee:

Returning members to the Senate Education Committee:

We want to welcome the new members and the returning members to the Education Committees.

We will continue posting on our series in the weeks to come: “Issues the Ledge Might Tackle.” We expect many education issues to surface during the 2015 General Assembly, including broadbandcomputer science courses, Common Core State Standards, adequacy, facilities fundingteacher insurance, and many others.

*Newly elected to Arkansas’ House of Representatives or Senate

Election results are in: How will this impact education in Arkansas?

In The View from the OEP on November 5, 2014 at 11:59 am

AsaHutchinsonWith the midterm election results in, Asa Hutchinson will become Arkansas’ 46th Governor. During the election season, we have kept you updated on the education issues in the Governor’s race; and so, today we will discuss how the election will impact education in our state.

As we discussed previously, as chief executive of the state, the next Governor of Arkansas will not only have the opportunity to make key appointments to lead the Arkansas Department of Education, but the Governor can serve as a vocal leader in education reform in the state. Therefore, based on Asa Hutchinson’s education platform, what should we expect to see from our next governor?

Computer Science

Asa Hutchinson’s education platform focused on a policy initiative to provide computer science classes in every high school in Arkansas within four years. Hutchinson’s plan calls for a computer science class (with an emphasis on coding) to count towards graduation requirements as a math or science credit. To offer the classes in districts across the state, Hutchinson’s plans suggests that the state will develop curricula for computer science classes and provide professional development for teachers.

Common Core

Asa Hutchinson stated that as governor he will “request a thorough review” of the Common Core State Standards and the state’s adoption and implementation of the Standards (read our detailed report on the Standards and the subsequent debate surrounding the Standards here). While governors in other states that have sought to repeal the Standards (including Louisiana), it is important to point out that Hutchinson has not stated that he will repeal the Standards.

Pre-K

While Asa Hutchinson’s opponent, Mike Ross, campaigned to expand pre-kindergarten, Hutchinson’s plans call for Arkansas’ current pre-k program to be fully funded at its current state. The Arkansas Better Chance program subsidizes pre-k for students in families up to 200% of the federal poverty level. (Read more about pre-k in our recent blog post and policy brief.)

School Choice

Hutchinson’s education platform calls for parental choice in education; and in doing so, Hutchinson stated that he supports charter schools for “their ability to innovate and provide unique choices in education for parents.”

Other issues:

To learn about these issues and others, you can watch our interview with Asa Hutchinson last spring (read about the interview here).

As the Arkansas House and Senate will be majority Republican, we can expect the Governor’s initiatives to receive support in the chambers. Furthermore, we can expect there to be other education issues that will surface during the 2015 General Assembly.

As always, we will keep you updated on Arkansas education news; and in the weeks to come, we will continue our series on issues that we expect the Arkansas Legislature to tackle during the 2015 General Assembly.

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