Monday, May 23, 2011

"Isolated" school funding to follow students in forced consolidations

I've written a bit about the public schools in Arkansas recently, here, here and here, with particular attention to those in Newton County, which are facing the prospect of further consolidation. One concern several folks in Newton County mentioned recently is the prospect that--if further consolidation occurs (specifically, if the Deer-Mt. Judea school district is consolidated into the Jasper district)--the school district will lose its status as an "isolated" school district because it will have more than 1000 students. This "isolated" status is apparently a creation of the state of Arkansas, and it represents additional funding to schools so designated.

Now, the May 4, 2011 issue of the Newton County Times reports some good news on this topic. Without explaining exactly what benefits or funding supplements and opportunities "isolated" schools receive, the story reports that the Arkansas legislature recently passed Act 996 as part of its 2011 legislative session and that this Act "ensures that isolated school funding follows the student after a consolidation or annexation of school districts." This Act "struck a rule" which would have caused loss of "isolated" school funding if a district's enrollment exceeded 1000 students.

In addition, the legislature put about $500,000 in a "one-time pot" of money from which schools with "tremendous" transportation costs can apply for some type of reimbursement. The Jasper School superintendent is quoted as saying this "money will buy lawmakers time to further study school districts' transportation costs and come up with a more equitable funding bill." He said that "the state is giving all schools around $300 per child to pay for funding expenses," while the Jasper School District spends more than $900 per child for transportation to and from school. The Jasper School had supported a bill with a "special transportation line item," but that bill did not pass.

Pictured above: A bus pulling away from the Jasper School in 2009.

1 comment:

RH said...

I suppose you would have to look at the state's accounting, but it amazes me that the the legislature doesn't realize that consolidation might not always be so efficient if it is necessary to set aside $500,000 for "tremendous" transportation costs.