URGENT Education Alert: Act now to save adequate funding for your schools!
Please call your lawmakers this weekend and ask them to support the Bureau of Legislative Research's findings that adequate school funding needs a 2.5% increase and to support a needed $20 million increase in Special Education funding. Time is short and your action could make the difference.
This Monday, October 31st, the Education Committees of the Arkansas House and Senate will meet to finalize their recommendations for public school funding for the 2018 and 2019 school years.
The legislatures own experts at the Bureau of Legislative Research found that education funding needs a 2.5% increase to keep minimum adequate education funding even with inflation. So far only one draft proposal has been put before the committees, but it contains dramatically less funding. Instead of the 2.5% increase for inflation, the current draft proposes an increase of only 0.71% in 2018 and 0% in 2019.
School costs are rising -- from salaries to food, inflation is a fact of life for every school. Failing to increase education funding by at least as much as inflation will result in diminished opportunities for students.
You may recall the 2002 Lakeview Supreme Court ruling that found Arkansas' system of education unconstitutionally inadequate and unequal. Part of the resolution of that case was the process of having the Bureau of Legislative Research conduct an annual adequacy report on how much funding the public school system needed, at minimum, to provide an adequate education. Arkansas schools have made dramatic improvements over the past decade because we have invested in research-based best practices. The Arkansas Legislature has scaled back adequacy recommendations in recent years, diminishing school's ability to meet the needs of their students, but this current proposal would take that to a new level.
Funding for kids with special needs is also in jeopardy. Some lawmakers are also considering cutting the needed $20 million increase for Special Education students recommended by the Legislative Task Force on Special Education to improve services to children with special needs. The Special Education Task Force found significant deficiencies in the educational opportunity that children with special needs receive in Arkansas and the proposed $20 million increase in funding is a key first in improving their lives.
The draft proposal also ignores the 2% increase in insurance premiums for teachers and school employees, effectively giving them a pay cut of 2%.
Why would they consider education spending cuts? Tax cuts are a bigger priority. The Legislature has prioritized tax cuts, mostly targeted to upper income Arkansans. They passed well over $100 million in tax cuts for the wealthy in the last legislative session, and there are proposals for over $100 million in cuts for the coming session. Budgets are statements of values, and the legislature has been prioritizing tax cuts, mostly benefiting a small few, that have to be paid for by spending cuts elsewhere, including the needs of children and schools.
Arkansas must maintain our commitment to investing in quality public education. The Committees will finalize their recommendations on Monday, October 31.
Please call your lawmakers now, especially if they serve on the House or Senate Education Committee, and tell them to support quality public schools by implementing the full 2.5% adequacy increase recommended by the Bureau of Legislative Research and the full $20 million special education increase recommended by the Special Education Task Force. See a map of the Senate Committee and all of their contact information here, and here is a map of the House Education Committee and their contact information.
Justin Harris, email@example.com N/A