University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Who’s Using Act 173?

In The View from the OEP on February 13, 2019 at 11:30 am

Today we look into who is enrolling in public schools under Act 173, which allows home school and private school students to enroll in their local school district. School districts are reimbursed by the state for one-sixth of the foundation funding amount per course in which the student enrolls (about $1,100 in 2017-18).  The Act was passed two years ago, and permits, but does not require, school districts to participate in the program. So we got to wondering, who is using Act 173 to enroll in public schools? We looked into it, and share our findings below.  You can read more in the associated policy brief.

How many students are enrolling in districts under Act 173?

Using data from 2017-18, the first year in which home school and private school students were eligible to enroll under the Act, we found that only 95 students enrolled in at least one course in their local district under Act 173.  This amounts to 0.02% of the public school population.

Are students who enroll under the Act demographically different from the public school population as a whole?

Figure 1. Demographic Differences Between Act 173 and District Public School Students, 2017-18

Figure1_Act173

We found that a greater proportion of Act 173 students were White and a smaller proportion of them were Black or Hispanic compared to regularly-enrolled district
students. While 86.3% of all Act 173 district students were White, only 55.9% of all regularly-enrolled Arkansas public school students were White. In contrast, only 5.3%
and 3.2% of Act 173 students were Black or Hispanic respectively, while 25.5% and 13.1% of the overall Arkansas public school population reported those racial identities.

Interestingly, Act 173 students were significantly more likely to report having a disability than public school students as a whole. Overall, 35.8% of all Act 173 district students reported having a disability compared to just 13.7% of regularly-enrolled district students, a difference of 22 percentage points. Of the Act 173 students reporting a disability, the vast majority (30/34) reported having a speech or language impairment.

No students identified as Limited English Proficient (LEP) enrolled in district schools through Act 173, compared to 8.5% of regularly-enrolled district students that are
identified as LEP.

Are Act 173 students concentrated in particular grade levels?

Yes!  Act 173 students disproportionately enrolled in high schools. Forty-four students
used Act 173 to enroll in a total of 23 district high schools in the 2017-18 school year. Twenty-five Act 173 students enrolled in either middle school or junior high and 26 used the program to enroll in elementary schools. Middle/junior high students enrolled in 15 different schools, whereas elementary students enrolled in only five schools, with the vast majority (21) enrolling in Baseline Elementary in Little Rock.

Figure 2. Number of Act 173 Schools and Students, by Level, 2017-18

Figure2_Act173

Are certain geographic regions more likely to enroll students under Act 173?

Actually, as a share of the public school population, Act 173 students are fairly equally distributed around the regions of the state. Most Act 173 students enrolled
in schools in either Central Arkansas (34 students,or 35.8% of all Act 173 students) or Northwest Arkansas (31, 32.6%). By district, the greatest number of Act 173 students enrolled in a school in Little Rock (25, 26.3%).  Central and Northwest Arkansas are the
largest education regions by total number of public school students, with
142,932 and 172,634 students, respectively.

Figure 3. Number and Share of Act 173 Students, by Region, 2017-18

Figure3_Act173

What type of districts enroll Act 173 students?

Given that Act 173 benefits districts by allowing them to serve more families in the community while also increasing district resources,we found it interesting that only 35 of Arkansas’s 227 traditional school districts enrolled any students under Act 173 during the 2017-18 school year. According to the latest data available, there are over 24,000 students enrolled in private schools in Arkansas, and over 20,000 students being home schooled in the state. That is over 44,000 students that districts could be serving under Act 173!

District size was an important factor in predicting Act 173 participation. A district with enrollment one standard deviation above the mean (that is, roughly 4,700 students) was approximately three percentage points more likely to have students enrolled using Act 173 relative to a district at mean enrollment. Larger districts are generally in areas with a larger number of private and home schooled students who might benefit from Act 173.  These larger districts also offer more distinct courses that might attract such students.  However, only three of Arkansas’ ten largest school districts (Little Rock, Pulaski, and Fayetteville) reported enrolling any Act 173 students during the 2017-18 school year.

Table 1: Ten Largest School Districts with no Student Enrollment Under Act 173, 2017-18

Table1_Act173

Here at OEP, we think Act 173 is a great opportunity for private and home school students to gain value from attending a public school, and enrolling these students enhances the districts through additional revenue and broader community engagement.

Recommendations!

Although fewer than 100 students enrolled in public schools under Act 173 in the first year, we anticipate increased participation in the years to come, and have some suggestions for things that would increase participation.

1. Promote Act 173 Enrollment. The Act is designed to benefit students, by providing them access to more courses, and districts, by allowing them to serve additional students in their community and receive more resources. However, only a small number of students used the Act to enroll in courses in their zoned district in the first year. The modest initial enrollment in the program could be because families lack awareness of this opportunity, because demand for district courses by home and private schooled students is modest, or because districts have not elected to participate in Act 173.

Education officials in Arkansas should encourage districts to be more proactive in promoting these opportunities to private and home school students living in their   district. They also should encourage districts to announce on their websites if they are or are not seeking to serve more children in their community through Act 173.

2. Highlight Available Resources. Demand for Act 173 enrollment is particularly
strong among students with disabilities. Districts should highlight the resources they have available and the services they offer to support such students.

3. Provide Supplemental Funding. The students with disabilities making use of Act 173 tend to be more resource-intensive to educate than the average district student. As a result, Arkansas education officials should explore ways to provide supplemental funding to districts enrolling such students to offset potential challenges. Changing special education funds so that they are tied to specific students, instead of wrapping general funding into the matrix, is something that we have addressed previously, and we feel it is a more equitable way of providing resources to students who need them the most.

4. Expand Student Choices. Act 173 does not allow students to enroll in a school
outside of the district in which they live. Additional students could benefit from this Act if nearby districts offered more attractive courses and they were able to enroll in them through a combination of Act 173 and the Public School Choice program. Better alignment between those two “consumer choice” initiatives would expand opportunities for students and districts while also providing state officials with a demand-driven measure of district school quality.

 

We look forward to bringing you more information about Act 173 enrollment as the data become available. Stay tuned!

  1. Does the public school receive any prorated funds from these students? I personally love this Act 173! But I was curious on how funding from the state worked for these students?

    • Hi Beth-
      Thanks for reading! The districts receive one-sixth of per-pupil state foundation funding per course per student enrolled under Act 173. The limit is full foundation amount, even if the Act 173 student enrolls in more than six courses. The full foundation amount in 2017-18 was $6,713 per pupil, so an Act 173 student enrolling in a single course would generate $1,118 in revenue for the school district. The foundation funding includes resources that would be expected to cover all costs associated with providing students with an education (teacher salaries and benefits, technology, special education personnel, transportation, etc.). State categorical funding, which can only be used for specific programs like English Language Learners (ELL), Alternative Education (ALE), National School Lunch (NSL), and Professional Development (PD), is not prorated for the Act 173 students. Hope that answered your question!

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