Education expenditures vary across Arkansas

(August 4, 2003) — (Little Rock-AP) -- There's a wide ranging in the money spent per-pupil in Arkansas's school districts. In some of the smallest districts, classes with ten students or fewer are common. The small class sizes are a bragging point for district patrons who say children benefit from the individual attention. But the small classes are expensive -- and some call them a luxury that Arkansas can't afford as it tries to improve its public education system. Across the state, districts with the smallest classes have among the highest per-pupil expenditures in state and local money. That's according to figures from the Arkansas Department of Education. Per-pupil spending from state and local sources averages five-thousand, 867 dollars across the state. In the 78-student Alread district in Van Buren County, it was nine-thousand, 313 dollars for the 2001-2002 school year. That's the last year for which complete data is available. Superintendent James Floyd said the district exceeds the state average largely because it must hire teachers to offer a state-mandated high school curriculum. He said the district had a graduating class of only five students this year. Governor Huckabee has proposed closing high schools in districts with fewer than 15-hundred students if they can't efficiently help students meet state standards. He says the required course offerings keep small schools from operating efficiently. Rural advocates oppose shuttering schools based on enrollment numbers.