Lake View lingers on | Arkansas Blog

Friday, February 9, 2007

Lake View lingers on

Posted By on Fri, Feb 9, 2007 at 11:57 AM

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel will have reporters in today to discuss the joint filing by parties in the Lake View school finance case. Special masters are to assess for the state Supreme Court whether the legislature has carried out its obligations under the Lake View ruling ordering equal and adequate schools.

It's a 19-page document summarizing the state's position and that of intervening school districts.

My impressionistic short take: The school districts are suspicious that the legislature's commitment to improving schools won't be continuing. The state says it's done just about all that's required and any future shortcomings are matters for another lawsuit. And there is a sharp difference on how well the state has met the school construction mandates.

The school districts, for example, note that it took court prodding before the legislature approved a cost of living adjustment in the 2006 special session. "Movants believe that the same factors warranting cost of living adjustments in other areas of state government apply with equal force to education funding, and should be considered by the General Assembly going forward."

I'll put it another way: Will teachers get the same percentage raises as a result of this year's legislature as the legislators themselves get?

Suspicion about the current session arises again when the school districts discuss the "recalibrated matrix" recommended for funding the schools in the current two-year budget period. "Movants believe this will result in an inadequate level of proposed foundation funding for the impending biennium."

McDaniel is having none of that. "Based on the court's determination that it does not intend to monitor the current 2007 session of the General Assembly, the state believes that it is wholly inappropriate to address this issue."

On facilities, the school districts noted that 19 districts had failed to approve millages for needed construction, that a state study on the impact of growth, wealth and other factors had not been completed and that districts in fiscal distress hadn't been considered adequately. The state contends the legislature is considering those districts with special needs and will assume responsibility, if necessary, for those unable or unwilling to fund their share of constuction projects.

(Yes, the state said "unwilling." Not a good message to send to school district voters.)

A hearing by the masters is scheduled later this month.

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