This memorandum is issued to clarify and update Commissioner’s Memorandum No. COM-09-177, issued May 15, 2009, regarding cash incentive awards to qualifying schools for achieving Annual Improvement Category Levels (Gains) and School Annual Performance Category Levels (Status).
The first clarification relates to the appropriate regulatory authority for the awards. Previously, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) was operating on the assumption that the cash incentive awards program was authorized by Ark. Code Ann. § 6-15-2101 et seq., specifically, Ark. Code Ann. § 6-15-2107. As such, ADE required qualifying schools to submit to ADE for approval proposals for spending the award funds, required qualifying districts to establish local committees to direct use of the funds, and restricted usage of the award funds (essentially, rewards shall be used for non-recurring faculty and staff bonuses, nonrecurring expenditures for education equipment or materials, and/or certain temporary personnel). In addition, given the information ADE had about how much money would be available for the awards program, it decided that, for the 2008-2009 school year, funds would only be distributed to certain schools under the Annual Improvement Category Levels (Gains) criteria.
Upon legal review, however, it has become apparent that Ark. Code Ann. § 6-15-2107 cannot support the distribution of any Recognition Program awards as previously announced. Specifically, while Ark. Code Ann. § 6-15-2107 provides a framework and criteria for the granting and spending of such incentive awards, the code section presumes that the legislature has appropriated sufficient funds to provide for awards of $100 per student for all eligible schools. Contrary to the assumption underlying § 6-15-2107, since the time of its adoption in early 2004, the General Assembly has not appropriated any money from the Public School Fund or ADE’s budget to finance the awards program. Therefore, the statute as written places ADE in an “all or nothing” situation – either ADE has a sufficient appropriation and funding to provide an award of $100 per student for ALL qualifying schools and must distribute the money, or, if the General Assembly does not appropriate funds or appropriated funds are insufficient to cover the full $100 per student award amount for all qualifying schools, ADE has no discretion to even partially fund the program.
Because there is no appropriation from which to pay full incentive awards under § 6-15-2107, Governor Beebe has agreed to release a total of $5 million of the discretionary funds from the Executive Branch share of General Improvement Funds. This allows ADE to distribute some awards to some schools that have achieved significant student achievement and significant growth in student achievement. While, as explained above, legal review shows that Ark. Code Ann. § 6-15-2107 cannot support a partial award distribution, the funds made available from the Governor’s discretionary funds can be distributed under another section of the Arkansas Code, Ark. Code Ann. 6-15-421(a), which expressly authorizes ADE, if funds become available, to develop and implement “a program of rewards to recognize individual schools that demonstrate exceptional performance in levels of student achievement and to recognize schools that demonstrate significant improvement in student achievement.” Thus, both this memo and any subsequent communication on this subject will refer to Ark. Code Ann. § 6-15-421 as the regulatory authority, and not Ark. Code Ann. §§ 6-15-2101 et seq. or Ark. Code Ann. § 6-15-2107.
Please note that even though the basic legal authority for distributing awards has changed, ADE will, as it has the discretion to do, continue to adhere to and enforce previously-established requirements that require the submission and approval of proposals for spending of award funds, the establishment of local district award committees, and the restrictions upon expenditure of award funds.
The second clarification relates to the schools that will receive awards and the amounts. As a condition of the Governor's release of $5 million in discretionary funds to make some awards possible, the Governor has indicated that of the total $5 million made available, 80% of the total funds will be distributed to schools that have shown superior results under Annual Improvement Category Levels (Gains) criteria, and 20% of the total funds will be distributed to schools that have shown superior results under School Annual Performance Category Levels (Status) criteria. To comply with this directive, ADE will distribute the money pursuant to the following criteria:
Annual Improvement Category (Gains)
Schools that previously submitted a proposal by the required August deadline and are subsequently reviewed and approved by the Arkansas Department of Education shall receive proportional funding based on the amount available, which is currently estimated to be $77.33 per student for qualifying schools.
1) Schools that did not submit a proposal by the extended August deadline are not eligible.
2) Schools that are contacted by the Arkansas Department of Education to make plan revisions must submit the revised proposal by November 30, 2009.
Annual Performance Category (Status)
Schools that submit a proposal and which are subsequently reviewed and approved by the Arkansas Department of Education shall be eligible to receive a per-student share of the total of $1 million dollars available. Please note that not all schools meeting the eligibility requirements will receive funding. The list of eligible schools will be placed on the ADE website, Thursday, November 12, 2009 (ArkansasEd.org) under Academic Accountability. Eligibility requirements are specified in § 6-15-1907.
PROPOSALS FOR PERFORMANCE-BASED FUNDING (Status Model)
Each school that receives performance-based funding for the Annual Performance Category (Status) shall submit a proposal for spending to ADE by to November 30, 2009. The Office of Academic Accountability, along with staff from the School Improvement Division and the Finance Division, will review and approve each proposal, and approve spending of performance-based funding for those academic expenses listed in the “Award Allocation and Use” section below.
PROPOSAL SUBMISSIONS FOR STATUS MODEL
Proposals must be typed in Microsoft Word and sent as an e-mail attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the format of the Arkansas School Recognition Program Proposal Form attached. After e-mailing the proposal, print a hard copy with the signatures of the proposer(s) and principal and send to the attention of Mr. Oliver Dillingham, Program Manager, Equity Center, Academic Accountability, Department of Education, Four Capitol Mall, Room 405-B, Little Rock, Arkansas 72201 or call 501-682-4213.
LOCAL DISTRICT AWARD COMMITTEE
District superintendents and principals will be notified that funds shall be distributed by December 15, 2009 to the school’s fiscal agent, placed in the school’s account, and shall be used as determined by a committee established by the local school. The committee members will include the following individuals:
• The Principal;
• A Teacher, elected by the faculty; and
• A Parent representative selected by the local Parent Teacher Association or some other local parent involvement group.
The Local District Award Committee shall make its determination as to the expenditure of the performance-based funds by December 15 of each applicable year. The performance-based funds must be spent for the purposes listed in the “Award Allocation and Use” section below.
AWARD ALLOCATION AND USE
School recognition awards shall be used for any or all of the following:
• Nonrecurring bonuses to the faculty and staff;
• Nonrecurring expenditures for educational equipment or materials to assist in maintaining and improving student performance; or
• Temporary personnel for the school to assist in maintaining and improving student performance.
Direct questions to Dr. Charity Smith at email@example.com or Oliver Dillingham at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 501-682-4213.
Awards notification shall be mailed to each school principal and a copy shall be forwarded to the superintendent.
Schools that qualify for performance-based funding are identified on the Arkansas School Performance On-line Report Card. Schools are identified by rating and amount of funds to be awarded. To access this report, click the following: