Tough Economic Times Make for Tough Decisions in Arkansas

Last Updated: October 10, 2008

This article appeared in the October 2008 Rural Policy Matters

Charged by the state’s Supreme Court with determining adequacy and funding it in Arkansas schools, a legislative panel has agreed to adopt some funding recommendations, including per-pupil funding increases and inflationary adjustments for salaries and instructional materials. But the panel left open questions of transportation and funding for teacher benefits.

Legislators have acknowledged that an adequate education must include teacher benefits and transportation support, even though the Lakeview decision does not speak to these issues directly. The panel will make specific recommendations on both issues on November 1.

On transportation, legislators want a more definitive answer on how much more money districts will need to cope with the rise in fuel costs. Health insurance provides a separate challenge. Currently, Arkansas teachers pay a higher share of their premiums than do other state employees. It will cost the state about $80 million over the next two years to avoid premium increases for teachers and even more to provide teachers with benefits similar to other state employees.

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