University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

House and Senate Education Committees Meet

In The View from the OEP on July 20, 2016 at 11:29 am

 

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The Arkansas House and Senate education committees met this week to hear presentations and discuss progress on broadband upgrades and career/technical education planning.  A report on isolated funding took a side trip to broader transportation issues and ended with a request for an attorney general’s opinion.

Broadband Upgrades

We’re about halfway through the two-year project timeline to provide all Arkansas public schools with better and more cost effective high speed broadband access, and Chief Technology Officer Mark Myers reported more districts are connected and connections are faster than planned. Security and content filtering safeguards are in place, and performance monitoring is such that DIS will know immediately if a district’s email goes down. Issues with vendor deadline commitments and previously-existing contracts have been resolved thus far. DIS is on track to finish all the APSCN upgrades by July 2017, and you can track progress with this linked map.

CTE Emphasis in Education and Employment

A common thread through several presenters was improving the employability and earning power of Arkansans through coursework and credentialing that align with labor market demands and job growth. Outgoing ADHE Director Brett Powell said new jobs are going to applicants who have at least some college education, and while more Arkansans need to earn all kinds of degrees, the most growth is expected in jobs requiring a CTE certificate.¹ Department of Career Education (ACE) leaders reported their work with high schools and secondary technical centers to assess career and technical programs and enrollment in light of employer needs and future economic impact for students and communities.²  Bureau of Legislative Research (BLR) staff also reported extensively on CTE program offerings and student enrollment and achievement data.³

Isolated and Transportation Funding

Reporting on the distribution and expenditures of “isolated funding” intended to help districts with geographic challenges, BLR Assistant Director Richard Wilson said the majority of those funds are spent on instruction-related expenses and transportation.  Committee members’ discussion veered to the broader topic of inequity in transportation funding as allocated through the budget matrix. Lawmakers have repeatedly expressed frustration that distributing transportation dollars on a per-student basis results in a profit for some school districts while others must supplement transportation costs with money meant for student learning. Ultimately, the committees voted to request an attorney general’s opinion on how the courts might view changes to the transportation funding mechanism in light of educational adequacy.

 

 

 

 

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