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Arkansas House committee backs increased funding for school facilities

Arkansas House committee backs increased funding for school facilities
Arkansas House committee backs increased funding for school facilities

The Arkansas House Education Committee voted on Tuesday to increase funding for school facilities as part of its adequacy recommendation.

The committee voted to increase funding from $200 per square foot to $275 per square foot for public school construction costs on university facilities. The proposal is a recommendation for fiscal years 2024 and 2025, part of a larger set of funding proposals the committee recommended last month.

State Representative Bruce Cozart, chairman of the House Education Committee, said the increase was due to rising construction costs resulting from inflation and supply chain issues.

“What we’re trying to do today is set an amount for the next round of funding,” Cozart said.

Tuesday’s vote is a recommendation on how the state should allocate funding for school facilities, but would be subject to changes made by the Legislative Assembly in the next session. District funding would be tied to the amount of money they receive in mileage, with poorer schools receiving more state funding.

Tuesday’s vote was an update to the recommendation approved by the committee on Oct. 4, which called for teachers to receive a $4,000 raise.

The debate over increasing teacher salaries has become a major issue for many in the state, as many school districts continue to struggle to retain and recruit staff.

To get the $4,000 increase, the House plan calls for a change to the state’s education funding formula, also known as the matrix. The matrix outlines average school district funding based on an enrollment of 500 students, but school districts have wide discretion in how they choose to use state funding.

After reporting a $1.6 billion budget surplus, Governor Asa Hutchinson called a special session in August to fast-track a $500 million tax cut. Hutchinson also said he wanted to see teachers’ salaries rise, but did not include that in the call for the session.

Democrats and some Republican lawmakers in the state — mostly in the House — lobbied for a bill to raise teachers’ salaries in the August special session. Instead, the GOP-controlled General Assembly decided to wait for the adequacy study and recommendations from the House and Senate Education Committees.

The House recommendations, sent to the governor, could serve as a framework for lawmakers in the upcoming session as they debate education funding.

. committee arkansas house supports augmentation funding for school facilities

. Arkansas House committee backs increased funding school facilities

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