University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

An Adequate Education: What is it and how much does it cost?

In AR Legislature on June 24, 2015 at 11:35 pm


Educational Adequacy Committee to Meet this Summer

Summertime in Arkansas… flip-flops, lemonade, beach books…adequacy study? It has been over ten years since the first meeting of Arkansas’ Educational Adequacy Committee, so we figured that now is the perfect time to share the committee’s history and what they are working towards.

The Educational Adequacy Committee was founded in 2002 as a result of the Arkansas Supreme Court case Lake View School District, No. 25 v. Huckabee. Prior to the Lake View case, local property taxes were simply collected and used to fund public schools. Therefore, schools in wealthier districts collected more money from property taxes, and schools in poorer areas had less money to contribute. As a result, districts in poor areas did not have enough funding to meet students’ basic educational needs. The judge of the Lake View case stated that, “The school funding system now in place . . . is inequitable and inadequate under . . . the Arkansas constitution,” as the state constitution mandates a “general, suitable and efficient system of free public schools.”  As a result of the Lake View ruling, the state needed to find a way to provide “adequate” funding for K-12 public education. Prior to Lake View, schools were operating with the funding made available to them—not the amount of funding needed to provide a quality education to students. Also, before the ruling, public schools were not the top funding priority. After Lake View, it was mandated that public schools be funded first, even if that meant reduced support for other state entities like prisons, hospitals, or roads.

This sounds simple enough in theory—providing every Arkansas student with an adequate education—but the word “adequate” raised an important question. What amount of money is needed to provide an adequate education and how can we determine what is this exact number? Without conducting studies to determine the amount of money schools need to spend per student, how else could Arkansas comply with the Lake View decision, and more importantly, how could it ensure that students were receiving a quality education? Arkansas decided to conduct a study to determine the exact dollar amount schools needed for each student in order to provide an adequate education.

The state contracted Lawrence O. Picus and Allan R. Odden, school finance specialists, to perform this study. Picus and Odden followed an expert based approach, where they interviewed a variety of school teachers, staff, and administrations and identified elements schools needed. Some of the different items discussed were curricula, facilities, technology, specialists, and equipment. After determining the specific components “adequate” schools provided, a ‘per student cost’ was determined based on a matrix. Picus and Odden presented this information to the state legislature in 2003-04 during the Lake View Special Session. Following Picus and Odden’s advice while simultaneously considering state budget constraints, the committee subgroup determined that K-12 public schools need foundation funding of $5,400 per student to provide an adequate education. The foundation funding is the funding floor, with categorical funds available for students with more needs. Schools with students who are English Language Learners, eligible for free/reduced lunch, or placed in an alternative learning environment are eligible for the categorical funds available at a progressive rate.

The Educational Adequacy Committee continues to meet regularly to ensure that the foundation funding per student, ($6,521 currently), and the categorical funds (funds for students with additional needs), continue to meet the costs of providing students with a quality education, accounting for inflation and changes in the costs of services over time. If you are interested in additional information about the funding formula, check out our 2008 AR Education Report on School Finance.

The 2012-14 adequacy study report submitted last November represented data obtained from district and school administrators and educators, state education agencies, educational advocacy organizations, and task forces on specific topics. The process included 65 presenters in 25 meetings and dozens of reports. The education committees evaluate progress on recommendations from the most recent adequacy report and address any other adequacy related issues prior to each fiscal session, making the study a continuous process. (See the Bureau of Legislative Research website for more information.)  For more information about educational adequacy, see our 2012 report.

Perhaps because of the continued focus on adequacy, Arkansas is 1 of just 26 states in the U.S. that ensure educational equity based on school funding. While ensuring educational adequacy can be both a difficult and controversial process, it is certainly a vital one.

OEP/OIE 2015 Conference Recap and Resources

In The View from the OEP on June 17, 2015 at 1:53 pm

While many teachers and students alike hail summer as a time to relax and renew (as they should), we also recognize that the time away from school presents an excellent opportunity to develop ourselves as educators and education policymakers.

That is one reason why the Office for Education Policy, along with the Office of Innovation for Education, hosted its annual conference last Wednesday at the beautiful Heifer International in Little Rock. Over 100 educators and policymakers came together to discuss “Student Learning and Assessment: Helping Students Gain the Knowledge They Need for College and Careers.”

Thank you so much to our conference guests and presenters for making the 2015 conference a huge success! In this post, we recap the information presented and share resources from our presenters.

Dr. Gary Ritter, Faculty Director at the Office for Education Policy, welcomed conference attendees and framed objectives for the day. He reminded us that strong education policy promotes strong educational outcomes and encouraged conference-goers to collaborate, to ask and answer difficult questions about the achievement gap, and to continue pushing themselves, their schools, and students in the state of Arkansas. To see his presentation from the conference click here: (Spoiler alert… there is a funny joke in the presentation, so you really should check it out!)

Morning sessions included an update on assessment by Hope Allen, Director of Student Assessment with the Arkansas Department of Education and “TESS/LEADS Updates” with Sandra Hurst, Director of Educator Effectiveness with the Arkansas Department of Education. Dr. Allen discussed the uncertain fate of the PARCC assessment in Arkansas, and stated that the decision to replace PARCC with ACT and ACT Aspire assessments was pending. Regardless of the assessment decision, however, Dr. Allen stated, “Continue good quality teaching and the test will take care of itself.” Dr. Hurst’s presentation focused on changes to teacher evaluation systems in Arkansas. She discussed the addition of the PGP (Personalized Growth Plan) that will focus on teacher’s unique areas for professional development as opposed to a blanket development plan that is less likely to target a teacher’s specific talents and areas of improvement.

Denise Airola, Director of the Office of Innovation for Education at the University of Arkansas, and Alan Lytle, ELL Assessment Specialist with the Arkansas Department of Education, hosted the next sessions. During her presentation, “Innovation in Education: What’s New and What’s News,” Dr. Airola stated that the goal of the Office of Innovation is to “create a statewide learning community and build relationships to support innovative education.” You can learn more about the Office of Innovation here. Dr. Lytle provided a brief history of English Language Learners in the state of Arkansas and shared information about the ELPA21, a new assessment system that will be available next year for to measure English Language Proficiency.

The panel presentation, “The Impact of Next Generation Assessment on Accountability, Awards and Recognition Programs,” included Senator Jim Hendren, Annette Barnes the Assistant Commissioner of Public School Accountability with the Arkansas Department of Education, and Barbara Hunter-Cox the Director of Teaching and Learning with the Arkansas Public School Resource Center. Scott Smith, Executive Director of the Arkansas Public School Resource Center, moderated the discussion. The panel provided an in-depth analysis of the A-F school rating system, discussed how the system accounts for “proficiency and growth” in schools, and also answered various questions from audience members. Megan Witonski, Assistant Superintendent for Innovation, Accountability and STEM at Springdale Public Schools and Joe Rollins, Principal at Springdale School of Innovation, reminded us in their presentation “Innovative Education” that “…students want relationships with their educators, personalization, 21st Century skills, and multiple pathways to careers.”

Conference guests listened to Governor Asa Hutchinson’s keynote address and posed many evocative and important questions about the future of education in Arkansas. Governor Hutchinson opened his address stating, “I want to be known as the ‘jobs governor of Arkansas.’ That starts with education,” and his presentation included updates on the push for computer science education and improved internet quality and access in our public schools, in addition to pre-K funding and college remediation rates in the natural state.

Following lunch, Katy Seifritz, Instructional Facilitator with Fayetteville Public Schools, discussed “Using NWEA MAP for Secondary Student Success” and Haley Weaver, a second grade teacher also with Fayetteville Public Schools, presented on the “PK-2 Assessment in Arkansas.” Ms. Seifritz suggested early screening for students and both sessions highlighted the importance of using standardized testing results to differentiate instruction and push students who are at different levels. Tracy Tucker, Superintendent with Hermitage School District, also posed the question “College and Career Readiness Standards: Why Not?” in her afternoon presentation.

The Office for Education Policy and Office of Innovation for Education are so glad that educators and policymakers were able to come together and discuss student learning and assessment.  We are already planning our conference for next year and look forward to seeing you there!

While we hope you continue taking advantage of all the summer fun, make sure you check out presentations from the conference listed above and don’t forget to come back to our blog!

Full Agenda Available for June 10th OEP/OIE Conference!

In The View from the OEP on June 3, 2015 at 2:18 pm

The full agenda is now available for the 2015 Office for Education Policy (OEP)/Office of Innovation for Education (OIE) Conference Student Learning and Assessment: Helping Students Gain the Knowledge They Need for College and Careers. The conference will take place one week from today on Wednesday, June 10, 2015 at Heifer International in Little Rock. Register now

OEP/OIE Conference

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Heifer International

9:00 AM to 3:00 PM

Policymaker-Focused Sessions and Lunch: 9:00 AM to 12:45 PM

Educator-Focused Sessions and Lunch: 11:45 AM to 3:00 PM

Registration begins at 8:30 AM

There is no cost to attend, but space is limited. Register now


conference agenda 1


conference agenda 2






Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 231 other followers