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Arkansas committee proposes changes to school funding system

August 1, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas advisory committee has proposed changes to how the state distributes funds to school districts for building-related costs.

The Advisory Committee on Public School Academic Facilities’ Tuesday proposal calls for the state to use the highest 10-year enrollment figures and median income in a district to determine eligibility for state funding, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported .

The state’s Academic Facilities Partnership Program uses a wealth index when distributing funds with the goal of providing districts with fewer local resources more support. The wealth index considers a district’s student enrollment and assessed property values.

The state’s current system puts districts that see a drop in enrollment at a disadvantage, the report said.

“This means that if a school district loses students, even if its assessed value stays the same, it will be eligible for less state funding,” the report said. “By the same token, if a school district gains enrollment, even as its assessed value stays the same, it will be eligible for more state funding. The committee views this as an unintended consequence of the current wealth index.”

The proposed change would reduce state funding for districts that are large and growing quickly.

The committee also requested the state set aside $90 million for school construction costs. Arkansas has been contributing to school construction costs since 2004 after the state Supreme Court ruled that the state’s public school system was inadequate and inequitable.

The Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation Commission has delayed action on the report until later this year.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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