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Public education in Arkansas

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K-12 Education in Arkansas
State Superintendent: Tom W. Kimbrell
Number of students: 483,114[1]
Number of teachers: 33,983
Teacher/pupil ratio: 1:14.2
Number of school districts: 289
Number of schools: 1,108
Graduation rate: 84%[2]
Per-pupil spending: $9,353[3]
See also
Public education in Arkansas
Arkansas Department of Education
Arkansas school districts
List of school districts in Arkansas
The Arkansas public school system (prekindergarten-grade 12) operates within districts governed by locally elected school board members and superintendents. Arkansas has 215 school districts.

The Arkansas state constitution requires that the state establish a school fund for use in a free public school system. "Intelligence and virtue being the safeguards of liberty and the bulwark of a free and good government, the State shall ever maintain a general, suitable and efficient system of free public schools and shall adopt all suitable means to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education."[4]

School revenues, expenditures and budget

See also: Arkansas state budget
Arkansas' education costs are 42% of the state spending

FY 2010’s $4.6 billion budget estimated a $75 million deficit to be filled by Arkansas’ recently established “rainy day” fund.[5] The Arkansas State Legislature set aside $100 million of surplus to cover FY 2010.[6] Fifty-four percent of the state’s revenue is from income taxes and 38 percent from sales/use taxes. Forty-two percent ($1.9 billion) of state spending is on public schools, 25 percent ($1.1 billion) on health/human services, and 16 percent ($730 million) on higher education.[7]

The cost per pupil is $8,541, ranking 41st in the nation according the U.S. Census Bureau 2007-2008 report.[8]

Personnel salaries

According to the Arkansas Department of Education, in the 2007-2008 school year the average annual teacher salary was $44,696.[9] As of January 2009, there were approximately 34,000 teachers and 465,000 students. Of all Arkansas teachers 99 percent were completely certified. Approximately 34 percent had Master's Degrees.[10]

School Year Average teacher salary
2005-06 $43,088[11]
2006-07 $44,494.02[12]
2007-08 $44,696.37[9]

Role of unions

The main union related to the Arkansas school system is the Arkansas Education Association (AEA), an affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA). For the 2004 tax period AEA had: $3.85 million in total revenue, $4.03 million in total expenses and $1.07 million in total assets.[13]

List of local Arkansas school unions:[14]

Role of school boards

The State Board of Education is comprised of nine members, all of whom are appointed by the governor for seven-year terms. Two members are chosen from each of the state's four congressional districts and the ninth member is selected at-large. The board of education is responsible for establishing the education policy for public elementary and secondary schools throughout the state. According to the Arkansas Department of Education, the board meets on the second Monday of each month.[15]

Taxpayer-funded lobbying

See also: Arkansas government sector lobbying

The main education government sector lobbying organization is the Arkansas School Boards Association.


Arkansas currently has no statewide, official spending database online. However, the Department of Finance and Administration has created a statewide contracts procurement website.

HB 1053, known as "The Open Checkbooks in Government Act," would have created an online database of state expenditures. HB 1053 died in committee.[16] See proposed changes to Arkansas FOIA for more information.

State Budget Solutions education study

State Budget Solutions examined national trends in education from 2009-2011, including state-by-state analysis of education spending, graduation rates, and average ACT scores. The study shows that states that spend the most do not have the highest average ACT test scores, nor do they have the highest average graduation rates. A summary of the study is available here. Download the full report here: "Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working".

State spending on education vs. academic performance 2012

State 2011 Total Spending[17] 2011 Education Spending[18] 2011 Percent Education Spending 2012 Total Spending[19] 2012 Education Spending[20] 2012 Percent Education Spending 2010 Avg. ACT score[21] 2011 Avg. ACT score[22] 2012 Avg. ACT score[23] 2010 Graduation Rate[24] 2011 Graduation Rate[25]
Arkansas $21.6 billion $7.5 billion 34.7% $21.9 billion $7.6 billion 34.7% 20.3 19.9 20.3 74.4% 76.4%

Academic performance

The Arkansas Department of Education 2009 Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) results revealed that 489 schools met AYP standards in math and reading and a total of 213 school districts met standards. AYP is used by the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program to determine the academic performance of schools.[26]

AYP results by schools:

  • 498 schools are classified as Achieving
  • 176 schools didn't meet standards for the first time
  • 140 schools didn't meet AYP in math/literacy and missed the annual measurable goal for 25 percent or fewer
  • 113 schools didn't meet AYP in math/literacy and missed the annual measurable goal for 25 percent or more
  • 32 schools are classified as “Targeted Intensive Improvement Schools”
  • 64 schools are classified as “Whole School Intensive Improvement Schools”
  • 58 schools didn't meet AYP for 5 years or more

AYP results by districts:

  • 213 districts Meet Standards
  • 16 districts are in Alert
  • 8 districts are in District Improvement Year 1
  • 13 districts are in District Improvement Year 2
  • 3 districts are in District Improvement Year 3
  • 1 district is in District Improvement Year 4

School choice

School choice options include:

  • Charter schools: the state of Arkansas does offer the choice of attending a charter school. According to the Department of Education, charter schools are granted a period of 5 years, at the end of which the school must be renewed by the State Board of Education. "The basic concept of public charter schools is that they exercise increased autonomy in return for this accountability." However, charter schools still remain accountable for academic results.[27] There are approximately 11 District Conversion Public Charter Schools and 21 Open-Enrollment Public Charter Schools.[28][29]
  • Public school open enrollment: the state of Arkansas has two open enrollment policies: intra-district and inter-district. In other words, students are permitted to enroll in any school in any alternative district in the state or in any alternative school within a district.[30]
  • Online learning: Arkansas has a state-led Virtual High School that, according to reports, had 3,000 students enrolled in the 2007-2008 school year. Additionally, the state has the Arkansas Virtual Academy, which is limited to 500 students.[31]

External links


  1. National Center for Education Statistics, "Table 2. Number of operating public schools and districts, state enrollment, teacher and pupil/teacher ratio by state: School year 2011–12," accessed March 18, 2014
  2. ED Data Express, "State Tables Report," accessed March 17, 2014 The site includes this disclaimer: "States converted to an adjusted cohort graduation rate [starting in the 2010-2011 school year], which may or may not be the same as the calculation they used in prior years. Due to the potential differences, caution should be used when comparing graduation rates across states."
  3. United States Census Bureau, "Public Education Finances: 2011," accessed March 18, 2014
  4. Arkansas Constitution "Article 14, Section 1," accessed March 14, 2010
  5. Arkansas State Legislature “Summary of Fiscal Legislation 2009,” May 6, 2009
  6. Arkansas Business “Beebe Says Arkansas Will Live Within Its Means As Revenue Goes $55 Million Below Forecast,” October 2, 2009
  7. Arkansas State Legislature “Summary of Fiscal Legislation 2009,” May 6, 2009
  8. Maine Watchdog "Education Spending Per Child," July 6, 2010
  9. 9.0 9.1 Arkansas Department of Education "Average Teacher Salaries 2007-2008," accessed March 14, 2010
  10. Arkansas Department of Education "Education Fast Facts," accessed March 14, 2010
  11. Arkansas Department of Education "Average Teacher Salaries 2005-2006," accessed March 14, 2010
  12. Arkansas Department of Education "Average Teacher Salaries 2006-2007," accessed March 14, 2010
  13. Center for Union Facts "Arkansas Education Association," accessed March 13, 2010
  14. Center for Union Facts "Arkansas teachers unions," accessed March 13, 2010
  15. Arkansas Department of Education "About ADE: State Board of Education," accessed March 14, 2010
  16. Arkansas Legislature, Status of HB 1053
  17. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Total Spending" Aug. 4, 2012
  18. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Education Spending"Aug. 4, 2012
  19. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Total Spending" Aug. 4, 2012
  20. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Education Spending"Aug. 4, 2012
  21. 2010 ACT National and State Scores "Average Scores by State"
  22. [ 2011 ACT National and State Scores " Average Scores by State"]
  23. [ 2011 ACT National and State Scores " Average Scores by State"]
  24. National Center for Education Statistics
  25. National Center for Education Statistics
  26. Arkansas Department of Education "2009 AYP results," October 9, 2009
  27. Arkansas Department of Education "About ADE: Schools - Public Charter Schools," accessed March 14, 2010
  28. Arkansas Department of Education "District Conversion Public Charter Schools," accessed March 14, 2010
  29. Arkansas Department of Education "Open-Enrollment Public Charter Schools," accessed March 14, 2010
  30. Education Commission of the States "Open Enrollment: 50-State Report," accessed March 14, 2010
  31. The Heritage Foundation "School Choice in Arkansas," accessed March 14, 2010