About that state 'subsidy' to Little Rock schools | Arkansas Blog

About that state 'subsidy' to Little Rock schools

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I had one of those middle-of-the-night revelations last night relative to demagoguery by Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and others about how the state of Arkansas is spending more on schools in Little Rock than elsewhere.

UPDATE: I've also been corrected now on some of my revelatory thinking. So to straighten it out.

Per pupil spending is higher here, yes, thanks to generous local taxpayers. And, under the terms of Arkansas law, about a third of the district's roughly quarter-of-a-billion-dollar budget can be described as "state aid," though it's not really.

According to the 2010-11 state financial aid report, about $85.1 million in "state aid" in various categories flows to the Little Rock School District.

But, just so you'll know: The first 25 mills of property tax collected on LITTLE ROCK TAXPAYERS is the same 25-mill assessment made against all school districts. Those 25 mills in Little Rock raise almost $80 million dollars for the state, almost equivalent to the pure state support of Little Rock schools. But then local taxpayers fork over another 20 mills toward school. In Little Rock, local property taxpayers and federal taxpayers, through federal school programs, carry most of the load, but not the 90 percent I said earlier. In unrestricted funding, local money accounts for about $155 million of $215 million in state and local funding, or 72 percent. The feds kick in another $68 million toward Little Rock's expenses. Then there's the disputed deseg aid — about $38 million budgeted in several categories for next year.

But this picture mostly considers just property taxes in the state's burden, not the only source of money from which the state builds general revenue to pay for schools. Pulaski County is almost certainly a net exporter of sales, income and other taxes to the rest of the state. This is legal and fair. But it's worth considering the next time some modern-day Faubus tries to whip up voters about the supposed hardships created for decent rural folks by sending desegregation money to the wild-in-the-street poorly schooled thugs of Little Rock. They'd be a helluva lot poorer but for the tax money flowing from bad ol' Pulaski County. The bet is that the state's LR school costs, including deseg aid, is all generated, and then some, in Pulaski County.

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