The Department of Education should implement the statewide use of a finance analysis model add-on on a "phase in" basis.” (Murphy Commission recommendation, “Streamlining and Cost-Saving Opportunities in Arkansas’ K-12 Public Education System,” September 1998)

(October 2005) Special Masters Bradley D. Jesson and David Newbern, in their report to the Arkansas Supreme Court released earlier this week, note the state “argued a lack of data” in the Lake View school finance case. The state’s uniform accounting system, which allows citizens to analyze categorical expenditures by district within the K-12 system, is a vast improvement over the information available seven years ago when the Murphy Commission recommended transparency. The case’s long history, however, underscores the need for improvements to the system.

The state’s Financial Analysis and Accountability reports can be viewed at the following hyperlink:

Data on current expenditures are available for the following categories: instruction, support, operations, transportation, administration, other and non-instructional.

The state Department of Education should improve upon three shortcomings of the system. First, data should be more current, and include 2004. Second, complete data for athletic expenditures should be posted on the site. Third, the department must strive to present data that is accurate enough for researchers to cite in studies. The Policy Foundation, in a 2004 amicus curiae brief to the Court, noted the site includes the disclaimer, “Researchers are cautioned not to make specific assumptions based on this general data.”

Murphy Recommendation Advances Despite Opposition

The Murphy Commission recommendation was criticized upon its release, but has advanced in recent years. The Policy Foundation, in amicus briefs filed with the Court in 2002 and 2004, argued for a uniform K-12 system. The department launched the system, and has been working with districts to improve it. Lake View is a reminder more work is needed.

-- Greg Kaza