University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

House and Senate Education Committees Meet

In AR Legislature, The View from the OEP on December 16, 2015 at 11:32 am

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The Arkansas House and Senate education committees met jointly this week and spent the most time talking about how to address differences in transportation costs across school districts.

Student Transportation

Education committee members discussed the ongoing struggle to fund transportation costs equitably across school districts. The current method of per-student funding for transportation does not account for such differences as actual number of riders, population density, bus route miles, geographic terrain, and road conditions. This creates what committee members called the “haves,” those districts where transportation costs are below their funding allocations, and the “have-nots,” where high transportation costs exceed funding.

The Bureau of Legislative Research (BLR) found in a 2014 study that a formula including ADM, actual riders, and daily route miles explained 98% of transportation costs, compared to ADM alone which explained 79% of costs. Despite the hard work of the education committees in the 2015 regular session to use this evidence-based formula in public school funding legislation, Act 1248 included it only in temporary language. The accompanying $3 million appropriation for supplemental funding is in Category C, which means there will not be enough time to distribute the money in 2015-16.

Committee members wrestled with whether and how to address the supplemental funding issue in the 2016 fiscal session. The committees also grappled with the possibility that dramatic changes in costs in the Little Rock and North Little Rock school districts may occur after 2016-17 and alter the transportation funding landscape altogether.

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