Most anywhere else across this great nation, when you move into a state and you hear people using the term “lake view,” you likely imagine, serene, placid waters before a mountain backdrop, the sound of rustling waters – or perhaps a chorus of quacking ducks mixed with the ‘shloosh’ of fish breaking topwater for their morning feeding. This description seems all the more fitting for a place that we call “The Natural State.”
In 1992, a number of plaintiffs from the Lake View School District in Phillips County brought forth a suit against the state of Arkansas claiming that the funding system for the public schools violated both the state’s constitution and the U.S. Constitution because it was inequitable and inadequate. At that time, schools received funding from three levels of government: local, state, and federal. Because some local governments had more tax money available for spending, school districts in more affluent areas received considerably larger local contributions. Though the state and federal contributions were designed to balance the local governments’ contributions, they often failed to do so, thus leaving some school districts with insufficient and inequitable funds.
You can read more about the history of the decades-long Lake View court case on the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture; or read any of the following OEP policy Briefs:
- Defining Educational Adequacy
- Special Masters’ Report
- School Finance Litigation and Adequacy Studies
- Lake View Reopened
We bring this bit of history to you to illustrate why earlier this week in Little Rock, legislators on the Joint House and Senate Education Committee met to discuss the latest adjustments to the Arkansas school funding matrix, and be delivered the latest draft of the Arkansas School Finance Adequacy Report. Each year, the Education Committee must meet to approve inflationary adjustments to the funding matrix to ensure that Arkansas’ schools are being funded such that all students receive an adequate and equitable education (the actual language in the Arkansas Constitution reads: “the State shall ever maintain a general, suitable and efficient system of free public schools and shall adopt all suitable means to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education.“).
Under the current proposal, there will be an overall 2% inflationary increase over last year’s funding, which will amount to approximately $63 million (or roughly $125 per pupil above last year’s foundation amount). The foundation funding amount per-pupil – that is, the amount the legislature deems necessary to provide a constitutional education – was $6,144 for the 2011-12 academic year. Thus, the proposed increase would raise this figure to approximately $6,269. For further breakdowns of how this amount is divvied up into the various components of education funding (i.e., teacher salaries, transportation), see the Adequacy Report here.
The Adequacy Report is currently in the draft phase, and the Committee will be meeting Monday October 15th at 1:00 PM in room 151 of the State Capitol building in Little Rock to discuss and formally adopt (hopefully) the report and the recommended inflationary adjustment to the funding matrix.