University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Show Me the Money: A History of Adequacy Funding in Arkansas

In The View from the OEP on October 31, 2012 at 11:47 am

There is quite a history behind educational funding in Arkansas…

However, no discussion of education funding in Arkansas is complete without a discussion of the Lake View v Huckabee school funding case that was filed in August 1992 and not closed until 2007. After 15 years of the same litigation hanging around the Arkansas courts, it is no surprise that our state has seen some changes in how we fund our schools. Throughout the life of the case, school funding consultants (Odden & Picus) were brought in to assist Arkansas with creating an adequate and equitable funding formula for the state, a panel of “Special Masters” (consisting of Bradley Jesson and David Newbern – both former Arkansas Supreme Court justices),  would examine the funding structure and file reports noting the progress being made, and finally, the state legislature would enact laws setting the foundation funding amount for each pupil in Arkansas K-12 schools.

Quite a history indeed.

Therefore, we are releasing an Arkansas Education Report (AER) that chronicles the history of educational adequacy funding in Arkansas from the Lake View case through the 2009-10 academic year. This report was written by Dr. Reed Greenwood, former Dean of the College of Education and Health professions at the University of Arkansas, and we are fortunate to have the perspective from a pen that experienced these accounts firsthand. The AER features summaries of the Special Masters’ reports and Bureau of Legislative Research reports on adequacy funding are also presented. In short, this report address reviews and analyses of the decisions and actions that were precipitated by the court’s identification of the following as reasons for constitutional deficiency:

  • Department of Education’s failure to conduct an adequacy study or to define adequacy;
  • “Abysmal” Arkansas educational rankings;
  • Low benchmark scores;
  • Need for Arkansas student remediation in college;
  • Teacher salaries not comparable to surrounding states;
  • Disparities in teacher salaries within the state;
  • Recruitment and retention of quality teachers;
  • Needs of school districts in low-income areas (for improved and advanced curriculum, quality teachers, and adequate facilities, supplies, and equipment); and
  • Needs of school districts in high enrollment growth areas.

After many years of litigation, this report summarizes a number of steps that have been taken to ensure that the state is indeed providing a adequate and equitable education that fits with Arkansas’ constitutional mandate. Since the Lake View ruling and the court’s identification of constitutional deficiency, the state has made taken the following steps in response to the court’s ruling:

  • The General Assembly conducted an adequacy study with a follow-up recalibration study by the same consultants and adequacy has been defined.
  • Arkansas has moved up in some rankings, especially in terms of teacher salaries, and has received positive national attention of rankings published by Education Week where the state ranked fifth in the 2012 Quality Count ranking–see note with asterisk below.
  • Benchmark scores in many areas are improving across the state.
  • Remediation rates continue to be high in the state’s four-year and two-year institutions.
  • Salary rankings for teachers have improved both at entry and average levels.
  • Disparities continue to exist, although averages across the state are higher. It continues to be difficult to recruit and retain teachers in rural areas of the state.
  • In addition to federal funding for low-income students, the state has provided supplemental funding for both low-income and ELL students.
  • It is not possible to comment on the curriculum; quality teachers continue to be an issue in some areas; and additional funding has been made available for facilities, supplies and equipment.
  • Supplemental funding is available for districts experiencing significant growth.

If you are interested in more details regarding the history of our state’s attempt to provide an adequate and equitable education for its students, click here to read the report now!

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  1. In conversation with Picus and a couple of outside experts brought to Arkansas by the Murphy Commission in the mid-1990’s, I found none of them were aware that schools and education in Arkansas pay sales and use taxwes–a not insignificant cost factor. There are probably other less significant factors they were not aware of either.

    If Constitututional Ballot 1 passes, schools are going to get hit further.

    Tom Easterly

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