Fair school funding systems ensure that districts, schools, and ultimately students receive significant additional funding according to their specific needs. Providing high-quality learning opportunities for students living in poverty, English learners, students with disabilities, and rural students requires additional resources.

According to The Education Trust’s State of Funding Equity, in Arkansas:

  • The highest poverty districts receive $405 or 3.8% more state and local revenue than the lowest poverty districts.
  • The districts serving the most students of color receive $660 or 6.1% more state and local revenue per student than the districts serving the fewest students of color.
  • The districts serving the most English learners receive $192 or 1.8% less state and local revenue per student than the districts serving the fewest English learners.

For more information about how these data compare with other states or district specific information, see The Education Trust’s State of Funding Equity report.

Learn more about
how Arkansas
funds students

According to EdBuild, “Arkansas has a primarily student-based formula. It assigns a cost to the education of a student with no special needs or services, called a base amount, and provides increased funding to educate specific categories of students. The categories of students considered in Arkansas’ funding policy are students in certain grade levels; English-language learners; low-income students and students in high-poverty districts; students identified as gifted; students enrolled in career and technical education programs; students in alternative learning environments; and students enrolled in small, isolated, and sparsely populated districts.”

The Education Law Center’s 2023 Making the Grade Report rated Arkansas school funding:

  • F on per-pupil funding relative to the national average.
  • C on the percentage difference in per-pupil funding in high-poverty districts relative to low-poverty districts.
  • C on the PK-12 funding as a percentage of state GDP.


Student Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity, 2021-22

Per-Pupil Expenditures, Fiscal Year 2021




Per-Pupil Expenditures

How fair is
Arkansas’s Funding?

Using criteria developed based on research, best practice, and what we believe, we provide ratings for Arkansas’s school funding formula below. Our goal is for states to build a simplified, student-weighted funding formula guided by students’ different levels of need with the goals of eliminating achievement and opportunity gaps. We aim for states to create adequate, equitable, and transparent formulas that provide clear dollar allocations by assigning additional “weights” for students from low-income families, English learners, students with disabilities, and rural students.

For more on how we determined our ratings for Arkansas click here.

See our ratings across states, an explanation of the criteria we used to differentiate between state funding systems, and explanations of our specific state rankings here.

Meets Criteria
Partially Meets Criteria
Doesn’t Meet Criteria
RatingReason for Rating
The funding formula is
student-based, or weighted
The formula is student-based
Per-pupil funding is adequate enough for all students to achieve average, national
test scores
There is high percentage of students attending schools in inadequately funded districts
Formula includes a weight or additional funding for students living in poverty
The formula provides additional dollars to district based on district poverty levels, rather than funding based on individual students living in poverty
Formula includes a weight or additional funding for
English learners
The formula includes a flat amount per English learner, which amounts to 5% of the per-student base
Formula includes a weight or additional funding for students
with disabilities
The formula does not fund special education through separate weights, but instead assumes certain personnel needs and factors those needs into the per-student base. In addition, districts can seek reimbursements for services for students with extremely high-cost needs, but money for reimbursements is limited and subject to the policymakers providing such funding in the state budget.
Formula includes a weight or additional funding for sparse and/or isolated districts
The formula allocates additional funding for sparsity or isolation in three different ways, with more additional dollars going the districts that are the most isolated
Formula includes weights or additional funding for districts with high levels of concentrated poverty
The formula does not include a weight for concentrated poverty
State caps how much local revenue districts can raise to limit between-district disparities in local revenue
The formula sets a cap on local property tax rates and sets a level at which voters can vote to increase property taxes
State annually publishes information about how the funding system is designed to work in clear, plain language
The state education department publishes a school funding guide, but it is not user friendly
State reports school spending data in alignment with equity-oriented principles
The state reports are aligned with equity-oriented school spending reporting principles
Taxpayer funds are used to maintain and support public
schools exclusively
The state has an ESA program that will become available to all K-12 students by 2025 after 2 years of targeted phasing in; the state also has tax-credits for scholarships
Sources: EdBuild

Who’s Who

in Arkansas

The Arkansas General Assembly is the state legislature of Arkansas. The bicameral body is composed of a 35-member Senate and a 100-member House of Representatives. The Republican supermajority in the Arkansas legislature expanded slightly in the November 2022 elections. Legislators agreed in May 2023 to study their funding formula for more than a year until fall 2024 with plans to pass new formula or changes to existing formula in the 2025 session.

State Secretary and Commissioner of Education
The Arkansas Commissioner of Education is a state executive position in the Arkansas state government. The Secretary of Education is a cabinet-level executive official that oversees the operations of the state Department of Education, which runs Arkansas’ public school system. He or she is appointed by the governor. The State Board of Education also appoints a Commissioner of Education, subject to the approval of the governor. Jacob Oliva serves both as Governor Huckabee’s appointed Secretary and as the Commissioner of Education.

State Board of Education
The Arkansas State Board of Education is a nine-member policy-making body appointed by the governor. The board meets monthly and is composed of one at-large member and two members from each of the four congressional districts. Members are appointed for seven-year terms.