University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

On the Agenda this Week

In AR Legislature on March 25, 2011 at 8:15 pm

The legislative session is coming to a close with pages of bills on both the House and the Senate Ed Committee Agenda. Quite a few items of interest were covered this week.

School Funding

On Tuesday, the House Ed Committee looked at HB 1435, “To allow a school district to keep any excess uniform rate of tax collection revenues that remain after fully funding student foundation funding for the school district from the Uniform Rate of Tax Collection.” You may recall hearing in the news earlier this year about the four districts that had to pay back the state as a result of being overpaid. It looks like Representatives from these districts are supporting a law that they can keep all of the funding from the first 25 mills, even if it exceeds the per pupil foundation funding amount. At this point, that is not how the law reads. (Edited March 27, 2011; at this point, this issue is still being debated.)

We’ll keep you posted as we hear more.

UPDATE: The bill was defeated in Committee on Tuesday.

Teacher Certification and Reciprocity

You may recall our earlier post on changes in Teacher Licensure. Before being presented to the Senate, there were some amendments made that provided slightly less of an open door for non-certified teachers that do not participate in the Teach for America program. These were only slight changes to the bill. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate Ed Committee. The ADE did not speak against it this time.

School Choice

SB 303, a bill that would make amendments to the School Choice Law, passed both the Senate Ed Committee and Senate Chamber yesterday. The bill removed the financial responsibility for transporting kids who choose to attend a higher performing school from the state to the transferring district. Before you get too alarmed, realize this bill only applies to schools that are performing at Level 1 in the state. There are only 7 of these in the state, and according to Dr. Kimbrell and Scott Smith of APSRC (both spoke in favor of the bill), all are ALEs. See our policy brief on Act 35 posted earlier this week for more information on this topic.

School Transportation

On Wednesday, the Senate passed a bill  that allowed transportation funding to be determined on number of miles on the bus route, rather than the ADM numbers. If passed in the house and in both chambers, this bill will greatly benefit rural schools. Currently schools are funded approximately $275 and some change per student. This is great for the district in the state that spends about $90 per student. However, as Bill Abernathy testified, there is a district in the state that spends $900+ per student. The intent of this bill is to provide more equitable and adequate funding for transportation for rural districts.

Of course, the bill did not come without opposition. Scott Richardson, from the Attorney General’s office, testified that the bill could be considered unconstitutional. There is always a concern in Arkansas of another lawsuit on the basis of adequacy.

The Senate agreed to keep the bill from the Senate Chamber until a similar bill, meant to address concerns for rural transportation costs, runs through the house. It is clear that changes need to be made, however, it is not yet clear how they will address these transportation issues.

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