“School Improvement Coordinator Ms. Tiah Frazier said there were 28 districts with transitional support plans.” Minutes, State Board of Education, December 14, 2017

“PA930 of 2017 requires districts with schools labeled under the state’s previous school accountability system to work with the Arkansas Department of Education to develop “transitional support plans” that will move the districts and campuses into the state’s new accountability system.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 15, 20171


(February 2018) Arkansas taxpayers spent $38.9 million on employee salaries in six low-performing east Arkansas K-12 public school districts, while policymakers fought expanded school choice for nearly 80,000 students not attending traditional public schools, according to OpenTheBooks.com and public records.


Tax dollars paid 1,124 employees of six districts2 with transitional support plans, according to OpenTheBooks.com, a non-profit group that advances the idea of transparency in government.  The districts are Augusta, Blytheville, Dermott, Helena-West Helena, Lee County, and Marvell-Elaine.3


A recent Policy Foundation analysis found 79,325 students in charter, private, home school or public school choice programs in 2017.4  Policymakers defeated a proposal (HB 1222) to expand school choice in last year’s legislative session,5 and are divided over a pending proposal in the 2018 fiscal session.


“Very Disappointed”


State Board Member Dianne Zook expressed disappointment with the “transitional support plans” at the Board of Education’s December 14 meeting.


“Quite frankly, I was very disappointed. I expected the districts to do a complete task analysis, not “the kids are making Ds and Fs and we want them to make Bs and Cs, and send us some subs, and we’ll do a little PD;’ you know, maybe they’re not reading,” Zook said.6


Above-Average Expenditures, Below-Average Performance


The Education Department’s Data Center shows per pupil expenditures in the six districts exceeded the $9,807 state average in the 2016-17 school year.7


         Marvell-Elaine                     $18,132

         Augusta                               $15,204

         Dermott                               $13,466

         Blytheville                            $12,744

         Lee County                          $13,247

         Helena-West Helena           $12,566


The percentage of 10th Grade students meeting ACT Aspire Achievement standards for math was sub-par:


         Marvell-Elaine                     14.29%

         Blytheville                             6.58%

         Helena-West Helena            5.05%

         Dermott                                4.35%

         Lee County                          4.26%

         Augusta                               4.00%


About OpenThe Books.Com


The non-profit’s mission to report, “Every Dime. Online. In Real Time.” The group has “captured nearly 4 billion public expenditures,” and is “rapidly growing” its data “in all 50 states down to the municipal level.”

1 “28 school districts’ plans to tackle woes approved by Arkansas Board of Education.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Dec.15, 2017

2 (2016 Total Employees) Augusta, 89; Blytheville, 459; Dermott, 89; Helena-West Helena, 248; Lee County, 154; and Marvell-Elaine, 85.  Source: OpenTheBooks.com

3 (2016 Total Employee Salaries) Augusta, $2,733,764; Blytheville, $15,907,073; Dermott, $2,799,219; Helena-West Helena, $9,305,075; Lee County, $9,305,075; and Marvell-Elaine, $3,212,371.  Source: OpenTheBooks.com

4 Policy Foundation research memo, “Arkansas School Choice Market Nears 80,000 Students” (January 2018)

5 www.arkleg.state.ar.us

6 State Board of Education Meeting Transcript, Dec. 14, 2017, p. 123

7 Annual Statistical Report of the Public Schools of Arkansas, 2016-2017, p. 21 of 406, http://www.apscn.org/reports/hld/asr/caja/1617/AnnualStatisticalReport20162017.pdf