MARCH 7, 2007 - Posted at 7:54 a.m. CST
LITTLE ROCK (AP) - A committee of lawmakers says Arkansas should set aside $456 million of its budget surplus to repair and build school buildings throughout the state. Meanwhile, the state Senate yesterday voted unanimously to approve a boost in student funding by $121.7 million.
The facilities figure is 54 percent of the state's projected $844.5 million surplus. The $456 million would be the state's share of $1.4 billion in construction and repair projects proposed by districts. The Academic Facilities Oversight Committee recommended using surplus money to finance facilities upgrades shortly after lawmakers received the final price tag.
Governor Beebe has said the first priority for the budget surplus should be the facilities program. The facilities price tag was the missing component of lawmakers' plans to address a long-running school funding case. The state Supreme Court last year re-appointed masters to review the state's education efforts.
The school funding bills approved by the Senate yesterday must return to the House for it to concur on amendments before they can go to Beebe for his signature.