Arkansas Educational Adequacy Process Explained

Every two years, the Arkansas Legislature takes a deep dive into our education funding system to determine what it would take to provide an adequate and equitable education for every child. That study is happening right now, and we encourage all Arkansans to learn more about the process, to ask questions and to help advocate for the state investments necessary to achieve that requirement.

This is a process that started with the recognition that, historically, we haven’t provided that adequate and equitable education for every child. Thirty-one years ago, the school district of Lake View first brought a lawsuit against the state of Arkansas, claiming that the funding system for the public schools violated both the state’s constitution and the U.S. Constitution because it was inequitable and inadequate.

At that time, schools received funding from three levels of government: local, state, and federal. Because some local governments had more tax money available for spending, school districts in more affluent areas received considerably larger local contributions. Though the state and federal contributions were designed to balance the local governments’ contributions, they often failed to do so, leaving some school districts with insufficient and inequitable funds.

In 2002, Arkansas Supreme Court sided with the Lake View School District. This led to an overhaul of public school funding, and the state now has a mandate to provide an adequate and equitable education. So, every two years, the Arkansas House and Senate Education Committees come together to try to ensure that the mandate is being met and to decide how public education will be funded until the process restarts in two years.

Since Lake View, Arkansas’s education funding has increased significantly; many educational policy reforms have been enacted, and some educational outcomes have improved. However, while it is important to acknowledge the progress that has been made, we must also acknowledge that much more work needs to be done.

The Legislature convened in January to begin the Adequacy study process, meeting each month. Later this year, they will produce their final recommendations. Those recommendations have a big impact on how our state’s public education system is funded, and groups like Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families follow the process closely.

To stay engaged with this process, you can track the meeting times here on the Arkansas Legislature’s monthly calendar. Just look for “Education-House and Senate” and you’ll see the date and time of each meeting with a link to the agenda and an option to watch it live or view the recording after each meeting. You can also find the presentation materials put together by the Bureau of Legislative Research for each meeting here.

In April, Arkansas Advocates had the opportunity submit written testimony to the committees outlining our recommendations on how our state can make improvements to the public education system. You can find Arkansas Advocates written testimony here if you would like to review our full list of recommendations that touch on many aspects of how we can improve our public education system, including investing in early childhood education, closing gaps in student achievement, funding out of school programs, and more.

We hope the Legislature considers these recommendations to improve our public education system and ensure that all students in Arkansas truly have access to an adequate and equitable education no matter where they live in our state.