Arkansas Increases School Funding and Addresses Transportation

Last Updated: April 27, 2011

This article appeared in the April 2011 Rural Policy Matters.

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Arkansas’ recently enacted $1.9 billion budget includes a 2% increase for public schools in the state. In addition, Governor Mike Beebe agreed to set aside a special school transportation fund that will help rural districts.

State Senator Jimmy Jeffress, who leads the Arkansas Senate Education committee, had introduced a funding bill that would have allocated additional transportation funding for districts where those costs are highest. The House version of the biennial funding bill included the 2% increase but no additional transportation funds.

Beebe had expressed concern that that the Senate version would not meet adequacy and equity standards established by the Lake View school funding suit because not every district would benefit from the transportation funding increase. But Jeffress defended the plan saying he had the backing of the Legislature’s Joint Adequacy Committee members who had been studying the transportation cost issue. Jeffress, however, dropped support for his bill after a compromise was met with Beebe who agreed to transfer $500,000 from the governor’s office budget to the Arkansas Department of Transportation for a fund to which districts with high transportation costs can apply for extra funding.

In other Arkansas news, a bill that would have allowed the financial health and academic quality of a school district to be considered in consolidation decisions failed by one vote to advance from the Arkansas House to the Senate. Representative Jon Hubbard’s legislation would have permitted districts that fall below the mandated 350-student enrollment to avoid consolidation if they were fiscally sound and demonstrated academic success. Beebe had expressed concern that such a measure could violate the Lake View ruling on the basis that adequate funding was tied to the enrollment threshold.

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