Currently the state requires that all districts collect a uniform rate of tax (URT) of 25 mills to pay for schools. The court ruled that wealthy districts are able to keep the URT revenues in excess of what's necessary to provide adequate education to their students, meaning these excess funds can no longer be used by the state to make up for less wealthy districts whose revenues are insufficient to provide for adequate funding of education.
"The OTL Campaign is absolutely committed to the idea that every child in Arkansas deserves an equal opportunity to learn, and this ruling significantly sets back the state's efforts to make that happen," said Regina Von Tunglen, OTL co-chair and a parent from Pine Bluff.
"This ruling creates a dangerous precedent," said Rich Huddleston, executive director for Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. "This opens the door for future governors and legislators to backtrack and undermine Arkansas' commitment to education quality and equity."
The group says while they are encouraged the court did not back track on their Constitutional mandated right to an adequate and equitable education, they believe they have removed one of the pillars that the current funding formula uses to achieve adequacy and equity.
"The court may have upheld the principle of adequacy and equity in education," said Von Tunglen, "but they undermined the mechanism to provide for it. The quality of a child's education should not be determined by their zip code or their community wealth. All children deserve an opportunity to learn."
"We agree with Governor Beebe that the court should revisit this case and reverse their decision," said Richard Hutchinson, OTL co-chair. "The reforms out of the Lakeview case have transformed the lives of Arkansas' children and any step away from that progress is dangerous."
"In recent years, Arkansas has been hailed as a leader in our education reform efforts," said Arkansas Public Policy Panel Executive Director Bill Kopsky, "but we could soon find ourselves back at the bottom unless the state quickly comes up with a new way to ensure an equitable funding structure for our schools."
"Over 200 of us are gathered at this summit from across the state focused on improving education and we're not giving up," said William El-Amin of the AR Citizens First Congress, a grassroots coalition focused on improving quality of life in Arkansas. "We have too much inequality in our system already where much of a child's educational opportunity depends on where they live, and this decision just exacerbates that."
Donna Morey, President of the Arkansas Education Association, said, "The Arkansas Education Association believes in Great Public Schools for All Students. The decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court, Nov. 29, 2012, affects public school funding significantly. The AEA believes that the decision does not reflect the intent of the Arkansas General Assembly concerning adequacy and equity for all the students in Arkansas' public schools."
"It will be necessary for the legislature to modify the statutes to clearly define the funding structures for schools, and the AEA will be an active partner in changing the appropriate laws."