Speaking up for adequate education

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF) was one of eight groups invited to testify before the House and Senate Education Committees Monday to share its strategy for providing an adequate education for all Arkansas children. The need for a funding increase and expansion of pre-k programs was touted as a wise investment to provide a strong foundation for K-12 learning. After-school and summer programs were highlighted as proven strategies to increase achievement for low-income children. The need to restrict eligible use of funding for programs to support low-income students (NSLA) was stressed. Use of this funding has not met its potential to be a game-changer for struggling students. Other issues addressed by AACF included facilities funding, broadband access, and teacher quality and supply. To see the written testimony submitted to the committees click here.

Many of the organizations testifying noted the progress the state has made in the last 10 years since adequacy began to be addressed. AACF and others tempered that by noting that despite its progress, the state still has an achievement gap for low-income and minority students. When questioned about where the money would come from for some of the recommendations, Richard Hutchinson, speaking for the Arkansas Education Association (AEA, a teachers group), said, “Arkansas needs to set its policy priorities and education should be at the forefront of those priorities. Decisions about reducing the state’s revenue should be considered in light of the state’s priorities.”

The Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators (AAEA, a superintendents group), AEA, and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation (WRF) all mentioned their support for pre-K. Broadband access in rural and low-income areas of the state was addressed by almost every group speaking. There will be a follow-up meeting on this topic May 28 in Room 171 of the Capitol.

The need for better outcomes related to the use of state NSLA funding was noted by several of the groups. The AEA, WRF, and the Walton Family Foundation joined the call to limit NSLA use to proven strategies that benefit low-income children. The other issue addressed by most of the groups was public school facilities funding. Almost all groups expressed concerns about reductions to facility funding, the need to target available funding to under-resourced school districts, and the need for a solution to address facilities needs of charter schools which are also public schools.

The complete list of organizations submitting testimony is:

  • Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families
  • Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators
  • Arkansas Education Association
  • Arkansas Public School Resource Center
  • Arkansas State Boards of Education
  • Arkansas State Teachers Association.
  • Walton Family Foundation
  • Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation