University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Student Growth, Declining Enrollment & ELL: Topics from the Capital

In AR Legislature on October 7, 2015 at 10:51 am

ar legislature

The Arkansas House and Senate education committees met jointly this week and discussed reports of issues related to student growth, declining enrollment, and English Language Learners funding and expenditures. Reviews of these three topics are among the required elements of the state’s ongoing evaluation of education adequacy.

Student Growth and Declining Enrollment Funding

The state provides additional funding to help school districts with the financial aspects of rapidly changing enrollments. The number of districts receiving student growth funding has increased gradually since 2010, while the number receiving declining enrollment funding has decreased.  Bureau of Legislative Research (BLR) analysis showed that regular instructional programs and operations/maintenance accounted for most of the expenditures of both types of funding, and fund transfers to debt service was also a significant portion of districts’ expenditures of student growth funding.

Though they may receive only one type of funding per year, some districts are eligible for growth funding and declining enrollment funding in the same year. These shifts in student population are usually tied to family employment, according to BLR Assistant Director Richard Wilson.

English Language Learners Funding

In Arkansas, about 64% of school districts receive additional funding to support students who are not proficient in English. ELL funding may be used for salaries for ELL instruction, professional development, counseling services, instructional materials, and assessment, and BLR analysis indicates that per-student expenditures exceed per-student ELL funding by about 30%. Asked if the state is underfunding ELL programs, BLR Legislative Analyst Mandy Gillip said districts can carry over funding from one year to the next and can transfer funds from other categories such as NSL state funds. Overall, state assessment scores for ELL students have improved over the past six years, and NAEP scores show less of a gap between ELL and non-ELL students in Arkansas than in other states.

Links to BLR reports:

Student Growth    Declining Enrollment      ELL

OEP researchers are finalizing an in-depth analysis of public school funding. Watch for it!

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