The state recently awarded Arkansas school districts about $44.5 million in funding for this year, to pay for new construction and renovation of existing facilities to make sure they are safe, warm and dry.

Facilities funding is a vital part of state aid to local schools, and is distributed according to a formula that takes into account the local wealth of school districts.

The state’s share of total facilities funding is proportionately lower in districts where local property taxes generate the most revenue. Conversely, the state’s share is greater in school districts in which millage rates generate less in property tax revenue.

The Arkansas Constitution mandates that state government provide an equal and adequate education to all children, regardless of which area of the state they live in. The Supreme Court has ruled that distributing money for facilities is an essential component of the state’s duty to provide an adequate education.

The current constitutional basis for school funding, as set out by the Arkansas Supreme Court, resulted from a lawsuit filed by the former Lake View School District a small, rural school in the delta of east Arkansas. A Pulaski County judge ruled in the Lake View suit in 2001 that properly equipped school buildings are critical for education and must be provided by the state.

In 2003, the legislature created a facilities committee and in a special session that year appropriated $10 million for a statewide assessment of school facilities.

In 2005, the total cost of bringing schools up to standards was estimated to be about $1.93 billion. Since then the state has provided more than $1 billion in facilities funding.

The bulk of state facilities funding was allocated in 2007 when the legislature added $455.5 million in new funding for school facilities. Shortly after the 2007 legislative session, the Supreme Court removed the state from its supervision and since then the state has no longer been embroiled in the Lake View case.

Since 2007 the state has provided from $40 million to $60 million for school facilities each year. Last year the legislature provided about $40 million in General Improvement Funds for school facilities.

This year’s funding is for 49 projects. They include construction of new schools, renovations of schools and upgrading of plumbing and electrical equipment.

Lottery sales

State lottery officials announced that sales of tickets in fiscal year 2016 have surpassed those of fiscal year 2015, with a month left to go.

Total sales last year were $410 million and so far this year they amount to $419 million. The fiscal year ends on June 30.

The Powerball jackpot in January paid $1.6 billion and generated heightened sales in Arkansas, as well as in other states. Those increased sales helped boost ticket sales over last year.

After prizes are awarded and administrative costs are paid, revenue from the state lottery goes for college scholarships. According to lottery officials, since 2009 more than 200,000 scholarships have been awarded to Arkansas students attending state institutions. The total worth of those scholarships is more than $573 million.

If you have any questions or comments about legislative issues, contact me at terry.rice@senate.ar.gov or call me at (479) 650-9712.