Public education in Arkansas
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- 1 State agencies
- 2 Regional comparison
- 3 Demographics
- 4 Academic performance
- 5 Educational choice options
- 6 Education funding and expenditures
- 7 Organizations
- 8 Taxpayer-funded lobbying
- 9 Studies and reports
- 10 School districts
- 11 Education ballot measures
- 12 See also
- 13 External links
- 14 References
List of school districts in Arkansas
Public education in Arkansas
School board elections portal
- "Implementing state and federal education laws"
- "Disbursing state and federal funds"
- "Holding schools and districts accountable for performance"
- "Licensing all educators and providing public transparency"
The mission statement of the Arkansas Department of Education reads:
|“||The Arkansas Department of Education strives to ensure that all children in the state have access to a quality education by providing educators, administrators and staff with leadership, resources and training.||”|
The Commissioner of Education is the chief executive of the Arkansas Department of Education. The Commissioner of Education is appointed by the State Board of Education and approved by the Governor. The current Commissioner of Education is Tom W. Kimbrell.
The State Board of Education is composed of nine members appointed by the Governor to seven-year terms. Two members come from each of the state's four congressional districts. One member is selected at-large.
Common Core, or the Common Core State Standards Initiative, is an American education initiative that outlines quantifiable benchmarks in English and mathematics at each grade level from kindergarten through high school. The Arkansas State Board of Education adopted the standards on July 12, 2010. Full implementation was set to be achieved in the 2013-2014 academic year.
- See also: General comparison table for education statistics in the 50 states
- See also: Education spending per pupil in all 50 states
The following chart shows how Arkansas compares to three neighboring states with respect to number of students, schools, the number of teachers per pupil, and the number of administrators per pupil. Further comparisons between these states with respect to performance and financial information are given in other sections of this page.
|State||Schools||Districts||Students||Teachers||Teacher/pupil ratio||Administrator/pupil ratio||Per pupil spending|
| Sources: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "State Nonfiscal Public Elementary/Secondary Education Survey", 2011-12 v.1a.|
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
The following table displays the ethnic distribution of students in Arkansas as reported in the Common Core of Data for 2011-2012.
|Demographic information for Arkansas's K-12 public school system|
|Ethnicity||Students||State Percentage||United States Percentage**|
|Hawaiian Nat./Pacific Isl. Students||2,346||0.49%||0.42%|
|Two or more||7,745||1.60%||2.54%|
|**Note: This is the percentage of all students in the United States that are reported to be of this ethnicity.|
Enrollments by region type
A plurality of students in Arkansas attend rural schools. More than 64 percent of the state's students attend rural or town schools, compared to approximately 36 percent who attend city or town schools.
|Student distribution by region type, 2011 - 2012 (as percents)|
|State||City schools||Suburban schools||Town schools||Rural Schools|
|Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD) (timed out)|
- See also: NAEP scores by state
The National Center for Education Statistics provides state-by-state data on student achievement levels in mathematics and reading in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Compared to three neighboring states (Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri), Arkansas's fourth grade students scored the highest in mathematics (tying with Missouri).
|Percent of students scoring at or above proficient, 2012-2013|
|Math - Grade 4||Math - Grade 8||Reading - Grade 4||Reading - Grade 8|
|Source: United States Department of Education, ED Data Express, "State Tables," accessed May 13, 2014|
|NAEP assessment data for all students 2012-2013|
Graduation, ACT and SAT scores
|Comparison table for graduation rates and test scores*|
|State||Graduation rate, 2012||Average ACT Composite, 2012||Average SAT Composite, 2013|
|Percent||Quintile ranking**||Score||Participation rate||Score||Participation rate|
| *Regulatory Adjusted Cohort Rate (except for Idaho, Kentucky, Oklahoma, which did not report “Regulatory Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate,” but instead used their own method of calculation).|
**Graduation rates for states in the first quintile ranked in the top 20 percent nationally. Similarly, graduation rates for states in the fifth quintile ranked in the bottom 20 percent nationally.
Source: United States Department of Education, ED Data Express
- See also: Public high school dropout rates by state for a full comparison of dropout rates by group in all states
The high school event dropout rate indicates the proportion of students who were enrolled at some time during the school year and were expected to be enrolled in grades 9–12 in the following school year but were not enrolled by October 1 of the following school year. Students who have graduated, transferred to another school, died, moved to another country, or who are out of school due to illness are not considered dropouts. The average public high school event dropout rate for the United States remained constant at 3.3 percent for both SY 2010–11 and SY 2011–12. The event dropout rate for Arkansas was higher than the national average at 3.5 percent in the 2010-2011 school year. The dropout rate was lower than the national average at 3.2 percent in the 2011-2012 school year.
Educational choice options
- See also: School choice in Arkansas
School choice options in Arkansas include: charter schools, online learning programs and inter-district and intra-district open enrollment policies. In addition, about 5.41 percent of school age children in the state attended private schools in the 2011-12 academic year, and 2.67 percent were homeschooled in 2012-13.
Education funding and expenditures
- See also: Arkansas state budget and finances
According to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), the state spent approximately 16.3 percent of its fiscal year 2012 budget on elementary and secondary education. As a share of the budget, this is down 2.4 percentage points, or 12.8 percent, from fiscal year 2008, when the state spent 18.7 percent of its budget on elementary and secondary education.
|Comparison of financial figures for school systems|
|State||Percent of budget (2012)||Per pupil spending (2011)||Revenue sources (2011)|
|Percent federal funds||Percent state funds||Percent local funds|
| Sources: NASBO, "State Expenditure Report," Table 8: Elementary and Secondary Education Expenditures As a Percent of Total Expenditures |
U.S. Census Bureau, "Public Education Finances: 2011,Governments Division Reports," issued May 2013
- See also: Public school system revenues in the U.S. to compare all states.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, public school system revenues in Arkansas totaled approximately $5.2 billion in fiscal year 2011. The table and chart below present further detail, including revenue sources, for Arkansas and surrounding states.
|Revenues by source, FY 2011 (amounts in thousands)|
|Federal revenue||State revenue||Local revenue||Total revenue|
|Source: National Center for Education Statistics|
|Public school revenues by source, FY 2011 (as percents)|
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, public school system expenditures in Arkansas totaled approximately $5.7 billion in fiscal year 2011. The table and chart below present further detail, including expenditure types, for Arkansas and surrounding states.
|Expenditures by type, FY 2011 (amounts in thousands)|
|Current expenditures**||Capital outlay||Other***||Total expenditures|
| **Funds spent operating local public schools and local education agencies, including such expenses as salaries for school personnel, student transportation, school books and materials, and energy costs, but excluding capital outlay, interest on school debt, payments to private schools, and payments to public charter schools.|
***Includes payments to state and local governments, payments to private schools, interest on school system indebtedness, and nonelementary-secondary expenditures, such as adult education and community services expenditures.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
|Public school expenditures, FY 2011 (as percents)|
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average national salary for classroom teachers in public elementary and secondary schools has declined by 1.3 percent from the 1999-2000 school year to the 2012-2013 school year. During the same period in Arkansas, the average salary increased by 2.2 percent.
|Estimated average salaries for teachers (in constant dollars**)|
|**"Constant dollars based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, adjusted to a school-year basis. The CPI does not account for differences in inflation rates from state to state."|
In 2012 the Fordham Institute and Education Reform Now assessed the power and influence of state teacher unions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Their rankings were based on 37 different variables in five broad areas, including: resources and membership, involvement in politics, scope of bargaining, state policies and perceived influence. Arkansas ranked 48th overall, or "weakest," which was in the fifth of five tiers.
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.
List of local Arkansas school unions:
- See also: Arkansas government sector lobbying
The main education government sector lobbying organization is the Arkansas School Boards Association.
Studies and reports
State Budget Solutions education study
State Budget Solutions examined national trends in education from 2009 to 2011, including state-by-state analysis of education spending, graduation rates and average ACT scores. The study showed that the states that spent the most did not have the highest average ACT test scores, nor did they have the highest average graduation rates. A summary of the study is available here. The full report can be accessed here.
Quality Counts 2014
- See also: Quality Counts 2014 Report
Education Week, a publication that reports on many education issues throughout the country, began using an evaluation system in 1997 to grade each state on various elements of education performance. This system, called Quality Counts, uses official data on performance from each state to generate a report card for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report card in 2014 used six different categories:
- Chance for success
- K-12 achievement
- Standards, assessments and accountability
- The teaching profession
- School finance
- Transitions and Alignment
Each of these six categories had a number of other elements that received individual scores. Those scores were then averaged and used to determine the final score in each category. Every state received two types of scores for each of the six major categories: A numerical score out of 100 and a letter grade based on that score. Education Week used the score for the first category, "chance for success," as the value for ranking each state and the District of Columbia. The average grade received in the entire country was 77.3, or a C+ average. The country's highest average score was in the category of "standards, assessments and accountability" at 85.3, or a B average. The lowest average score was in "K-12 achievement", at 70.2, or a C- average.
Arkansas received a score of 71.8, or a C- average in the "chance for success" category. This was below the national average. The state's highest score was in transitions and alignment at 96.4, or an A average. The lowest score was in K-12 achievement at 66.7, or a D average). Interestingly, Arkansas received relatively high scores for three of the six categories, but received a C- for its chance of success. This may be attributed to the low K-12 achievement score. The chart below displays the scores of Arkansas and its surrounding states.
Note: Click on a column heading to sort the data.
|Public education report cards, 2014|
|State||Chance for success||K-12 achievement||Standards, assessments and accountability||The teaching profession||School finance||Transitions and Alignment|
|Arkansas||71.8 (C-)||66.7 (D+)||94.4 (A)||88.0 (B+)||74.1 (C)||96.4 (A)|
|Louisiana||69.9 (C-)||59.8 (D-)||97.2 (A)||79.6 (B-)||74.9 (C)||92.9 (A)|
|Mississippi||68.9 (D+)||57.1 (F)||92.8 (A)||66.5 (D)||64.9 (D)||75.0 (C)|
|Missouri||77.3 (C+)||66.0 (D)||78.9 (C+)||69.3 (D+)||70.5 (C-)||75.0 (C)|
|United States Average||77.3 (C+)||70.2 (C-)||85.3 (B)||72.5 (C)||75.5 (C)||81.1 (B-)|
| Source: Education Week, "Quality Counts 2014 report cards," accessed February 18, 2015|
A full discussion of how these numbers were generated can be found here.
- See also: School board elections portal
Arkansas has only one type of school district. A state act in 1947 reorganized all school districts in the state to have the same structure. Thus, all Arkansas school districts are governed by a board of directors, and each district may levy taxes and issue bonds.
- See also: List of school districts in Arkansas
The following tables display the state's top nine school districts by total student enrollment and the top 10 school districts by per-pupil spending.
School board composition
School board members in Arkansas serve terms between three and five years in length. Within a school board, all members have the same term length. The expiration of terms for a specific board must be staggered so that as near as possible to an equal number of members are up for election each election year. If a school board has a vacancy, it must be filled by a majority vote of the remaining members of the school board. School boards have the authority to choose if they would like to be elected at-large, by zone or a combination of the two. To change their current structure, they must adopt a majority resolution describing the procedure of the switch for the next four years. School boards can have five, seven or nine members, depending on the population of the school district.
The state does not impose term limits on school board members.
Here are several quick facts about Arkansas's school board elections in 2015:
- The largest school district by enrollment with an election in 2015 is Little Rock School District with 25,097 K-12 students.
- The smallest school district by enrollment with an election in 2015 is Conway Public Schools with 9,829 K-12 students.
- Fort Smith Public Schools and Little Rock School District tied for the most seats on the ballot in 2015 with three seats up for election in both districts.
- Bentonville School District and Cabot Public School District tied for the fewest seats on the ballot in 2015 with two seats up for election in each district.
The districts listed below served 110,137 K-12 students during the 2012-2013 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Click on the district names for more information on the district and its school board elections.
|2015 Arkansas School Board Elections|
|District||Date||Seats up for election||Total board seats||Student enrollment|
|Bentonville School District||9/15/2015||1||7||14,880|
|Cabot Public School District||9/15/2015||1||7||10,423|
|Conway Public Schools||9/15/2015||2||7||9,829|
|Fort Smith Public Schools||9/15/2015||3||7||14,374|
|Little Rock School District||9/15/2015||3||7||25,097|
|Rogers School District||9/15/2015||2||7||14,793|
|Springdale Public Schools||9/15/2015||2||7||20,741|
Path to the ballot
To qualify for the ballot as a school board candidate in Arkansas, an individual must:
- Be a registered voter and resident in the school district he or she wishes to represent, as well as within the electoral zone in which he or she will be elected, if candidates are elected by zone.
- Be an Arkansas resident and U.S. citizen.
- Not be employed by the school district to be served.
- Not be judged mentally incompetent by a court of competent jurisdiction.
- Never have been convicted of embezzlement of public money, bribery, forgery or any other related crime.
Candidates must file with and be certified by the county clerk of the county in which the school district resides.
School board candidates are required to file the following campaign finance reports with their county elections department:
- A pre-election report no later than seven days prior to any election in which the candidate's name will appear on the ballot.
- A final report no later than 30 days after any election in which the candidate's name appeared on the ballot.
- Supplemental reports for all contributions received and expenditures made after the final report, within 30 days after the receipt of the contribution or the making of an expenditure.
Education ballot measures
Ballotpedia has tracked the following statewide ballot measures relating to education.
- Arkansas Act 78, Whether to Abolish the State Board of Education (1934)
- Arkansas Appropriation of School Funds, Amendment 2 (1932)
- Arkansas Assignment of Pupils in Public Schools, Initiated Act 2 (1956)
- Arkansas Ban on Teaching Evolution, Act 1 (1928)
- Arkansas College Savings Bond Act, Proposed Question Act 683 (1990)
- Arkansas Community College and Technical School Districts, Proposed Amendment 57 (1964)
- Arkansas Elimination of Public Education Age Restriction, Proposed Amendment 53 (1968)
- Arkansas Equal Educational Opportunity Act, Initiated Act No. 1 (1980)
- Arkansas Establish a State Board of Education, Proposed Amendment 30 (1938)
- Arkansas Federal Government Not Allowed to Exercise Power Over Public Schools (1956)
- Arkansas Free Education for All Children, Proposed Amendment 52 (1960)
- Arkansas Free Textbooks, Act 4 (September 1912)
- Arkansas Funding for Education Amendment (2016)
- Arkansas Initiated Act No. 1, Arkansas School District Reorganization (1966)
- Arkansas Interposition, Proposed Amendment 47 (1956)
- Arkansas Junior College Districts, Proposed Amendment 32 (1942)
- Arkansas Lottery Proceeds for Scholarships Amendment (2016)
- Arkansas Public School Finance, Proposed Amendment 41 (1950)
- Arkansas School District Reorganization, Initiated Act No. 1 (1946)
- Arkansas School District Reorganization, Initiated Act No. 1 (1948)
- Arkansas School Tax Limitation, Proposed Amendment 43 (1956)
- Arkansas state budget and finances
- Arkansas Department of Education
- List of school districts in Arkansas
- School choice in Arkansas
- Charter schools in Arkansas
- Education Policy in the U.S.
- Arkansas Department of Education
- Arkansas State Board of Education (dead link)
- Arkansas Public Schools (dead link)
- Arkansas Public Charter Schools
- Arkansas School Accountability
- Arkansas AYP Reports
- Arkansas School Financial Reports (dead link)
- Arkansas Education Legislation (dead link)
- 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
- 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."
- United States Census Bureau, "Public Education Finances: 2011," accessed March 18, 2014
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Common Core of Data (CCD); Table 2.—Number of operating public schools and districts, state enrollment, teacher and pupil/teacher ratio by state: School year 2011-12," accessed May 12, 2014
- United States Department of Education, "ED Data Express," accessed May 12, 2014
- Arkansas Department of Education, "About ADE," accessed May 14, 2014
- Arkansas Department of Education, "State Board of Education," accessed May 14, 2014
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- Common Core State Standards Initiative, "Core Standards in your State,” accessed June 12, 2014
- Arkansas Department of Education, "Common Core State Standards," accessed June 13, 2014
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Common Core of Data (CCD), State Nonfiscal Public Elementary/Secondary Education Survey, 2011-2012," accessed May 7, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2011-2013," accessed February 21, 2014
- United States Department of Education, ED Data Express, "State Tables," accessed May 13, 2014
- ACT, "2012 ACT National and State Scores," accessed May 13, 2014
- Commonwealth Foundation, "SAT Scores by State 2013," October 10, 2013
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Common Core of Data (CCD), State Dropout and Graduation Rate Data File, School Year 2010-11, Provision Version 1a and School Year 2011-12, Preliminary Version 1a," accessed May 13, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2009-2011," accessed February 24, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditures Report, 2010-2012," accessed February 24, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2009," accessed February 24, 2014
- National Association of State Budget Officers, "State Expenditure Report, 2008," accessed February 24, 2014
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts: School Year 2010–11," accessed May 13, 2014 (timed out)
- Maciver Institute, "REPORT: How much are teachers really paid?," accessed October 29, 2014
- United States Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "Table 211.60. Estimated average annual salary of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by state: Selected years, 1969-70 through 2012-13," accessed May 13, 2014
- Thomas E Fordham Institute, " How Strong Are U.S. Teacher Unions? A State-By-State Comparison," October 29, 2012
- Center for Union Facts, "Arkansas Education Association," accessed March 13, 2010
- Center for Union Facts, "Arkansas teachers unions," accessed March 13, 2010 (dead link)
- Education Week "Quality Counts 2014 report cards," accessed February 19, 2015
- United States Census Bureau, "Arkansas," accessed July 8, 2014
- Homesurfer, "School District Ranking Report," accessed July 8, 2014
- Arkansas Code, "Title 6, Chapter 13, Section 608," accessed July 8, 2014
- Arkansas Code, "Title 6, Chapter 13, Section 611," accessed July 8, 2014
- Arkansas Code, "Title 6, Chapter 13, Section 630," accessed July 8, 2014
- Arkansas Code, "Title 6, Chapter 13, Section 634," accessed July 8, 2014
- National Association of Counties, "History of County Term Limits," accessed July 8, 2014
- Arkansas School Board Association, "Board Candidates," accessed July 8, 2014
- Arkansas Secretary of State, "Rules on Campaign Finance and Disclosure," accessed July 8, 2014
State of Arkansas
Little Rock (capital)
|State executive officers||
Governor | Lieutenant Governor | Attorney General | Secretary of State | Treasurer | Auditor of State | Commissioner of Education | Commissioner of Insurance | Secretary of Agriculture | Executive Director of Natural Resources Commission | Commissioner of State Lands| Director of Labor | Public Service Commission|