Arkansas Putting School Funding Issues Behind Them - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Craighead County, AR--Brett Garrett Reports

Arkansas Putting School Funding Issues Behind Them

CRAIGHEAD COUNTY, AR--More than 20 years of school funding litigation was put to rest Thursday by the Arkansas Supreme Court. The high court has issued a unanimous ruling that says the legislature has taken enough action to provide adequate funding for the state's 450,000 public school children.

Does one student have an advantage over another just because their school district doesn't have the same funding? Because of an updated funding system, the State Supreme Court no longer feels that is an obstacle some students must overcome.

"Overall, for all the school districts in the state of Arkansas, I think it has affected them positively," said Valley View Superintendent Dr. Radius Baker.

Baker says his school is getting almost the same amount of money from the state as they used to from the old system. So, they are relatively unaffected. However, Riverside Superintendent Larry Nowlin says the new funding system is proving to help and hurt their district.

"It's leveled the playing field on the academic side, but on the facility side I can't see where it has helped us," said Nowlin.

While the new system has helped to make things more equal, when you have a district like Riverside whose high school was built in the 1940's and compare that to a larger district like Valley View, whose high school was just built in 1998, you will see the playing field will never be completely level.

"Smaller districts like Riverside, Bay and BIC if we have to build something or are required to build something by the state, it requires a much larger millage increase than it would say a Jonesboro or Paragould," said Nowlin.

For districts, asking for a millage is the only way to fund new facilities or upgrades and that has smaller districts playing from behind.

"One mill for me is not level with one mil in Rogers, Springdale or Little Rock or one of those. There is nothing level about it," said Nowlin.

Both superintendents agreed the good outweigh the bad with the new funding program and felt it has a long way to go to be perfect.

"I think they are doing everything they can to make it, but I feel because of local control and millage aspects it never will," said Baker.

Both superintendents feel that the school funding issue has brought more attention and emphasis on state public schools, which has helped to raise academic standards and achievement.

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