Justices Order State to Properly Fund Arkansas' Public Schools

DECEMBER 15, 2005 - Posted at 11:34 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - The Arkansas Supreme Court has taken back jurisdiction in the long-running school funding case and has ordered the state to increase funding for public education.  The court today told the state that there is still a "constitutional infirmity" under funding of the schools.  The justices, in a 4-to-2 decision, told the state to get improvements in place by December 1 of next year.

The justices did not order specific funding levels but said not raising the $5,400 per student appropriation should have been raised by the legislature this year.  The court also said money dedicated to fix crumbling school buildings was "grossly underfunded."

The court had ruled in 2002 that the school districts were underfunded and that the money spent was distributed unevenly.  Legislators approved a number of reforms in 2003 and 2004 that the justices initially had said appeared fine.

Justice Robert L. Brown wrote for the majority in the 4-2 decision that the problems must be "corrected immediately."

Governor Huckabee has already said he may have to call a special legislative session to address school woes.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)