Arkansas Costing-Out 2006

Background

State Funding Context

From NCES (most current available statistics):

 Pre-K to 12 Students, 2004-05: 463,115
 Annual Public School Expenditures, 2003-04: $3.11 billion
 % Eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, 2004-05: 51.9
 % in limited-English-proficiency programs, 2004-05: 4.0

Note: This study is an update of the 2003 Arkansas Adequacy Study

Study Title: Recalibrating the Arkansas School Funding Structure” 
Date Completed: August 2006 
Definition of Adequacy: The study states as its goal the development of a funding system that will meet Arkansas’ constitutional requirement of “a general, suitable and efficient system of free schools.”The authors of the study also indicate that the study is meant to help “dramatically improve student performance results – which we summarize by saying doubling performance.”
Calculated Per Pupil Costs: Base per pupil cost:
$5,864 (up from approx. $5,400 in the 2003 report)Additional weightings:

  • “At-risk” students (qualify for free or reduced-price lunches): An additional amount that increases with the concentration of at-risk students in a school, starting with an estimated $542 per pupil for concentrations less than 70% (up from $480 in the 2003 report)
  • ELL students: $542 per student (up from approx. $200 in the 2003 report)
  • Special education: Varies; approximately an additional $6,774 per student

Additional required costs not included in the “base” cost:

  • $50 per pupil for expanded professional development
  • $286 per pupil for transportation
Calculated Additional Costs: As the study was intended to help recalibrate the Arkansas school funding formula and not to determine the full cost of adequacy, the study does not provide a total expected cost.For the basic per pupil amount alone, the study estimates an additional cost of $220 million (approximately 7% of 2003-04 expenditures).
Major Recommendations:  The study starts with broad recommendations for what the study is costing out, including:

    • Directing most additional resources to direct services for students, particularly for students from low-income backgrounds;
    • Small class sizes in the early elementary years, with class sizes of 25 for grades 4-12 (larger than recommended in most professional judgment studies);
    • Preschool for all low-income students (the study does not cost-out preschool and states that Arkansas has “one of the highest quality programs in the nation” and encourages the state to continue fully funding such programs);
    • Increased and ongoing professional development for teachers;
    • Extended day, summer school, and tutoring programs, particularly for low-income students;
    • Rigorous and improved curricula;

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 The study recommends updating the Arkansas school funding formula to account for the evidence-based proposals recommended, including:

  • The costs recommended in the “per pupil costs” section, in particular increasing the number of teachers for ELL and at-risk students;
  • Tutoring for at-risk students;
  • Implementing full-day kindergarten;
  • Meeting the teacher-student and staff-student ratios recommended in the study;
  • Improving teacher professional development
  • Updating classroom technology;
  • Providing adequate levels of classroom supplies;
  • Meeting the needs of school district central offices.

 The study recommends changing the special education funding formula by basing it on a Full-Time Equivalency count of special education students rather than the current headcount method.

 Transportation costs should be provided to districts as a separate grant, providing each district with the amount actually spent per pupil on transportation. The state should create a research-based transportation funding formula.

 A full list of the recommended resource levels is found in section 5 of the study (pp. 73-80)

Methodology: Evidence-based Approach:
The study updates the 2003 adequacy study in Arkansas by using a similar “effective strategies” evidence-based approach that utilizes what the study’s authors describe as educational strategies that research literature shows has been effective in improving student achievement.
Special Features:
  • This study did not consider capital funding for facilities or funding for food service or adult education, which are ordinarily excluded from adequacy studies.
  • While the study discusses preschool, it does not attempt to cost it out.
  • The study did include transportation costs, but notes that the amount will vary from district to district and that the legislature should develop a research-based transportation funding formula.
Public Input: None. 
Implementation: In March 2007, the Arkansas legislature passed HB 1632 and HB 1633. These bills together will increase per pupil funding to $5,876 over two years. This would cause an increase in school spending of $121.7 million over two years. Gov. Mike Beebe signed the bills on March 14.The new per pupil target in these bills is just over the $5,864 “base” cost recommended in this study. Based on the study, the state would have to increase funding in order to fully meet the needs of all of the state’s students.
Prepared for: Adequacy Study Oversight Sub-Committee of the House and Senate Interim Committees on Education, of the Arkansas General Assembly
Prepared by: Lawrence O. Picus & Associates

Fact Sheet prepared by Matthew Samberg, April, 2006.