El Dorado Unified School District Superintendent Bob Watson responded Friday to a News-Times article printed on Jan. 25 detailing comments by Laurie Masterson, a proponent for education reform, to the Conservative Action Project of Union County.
Masterson outlined her argument based on the rationale that Arkansas spends approximately $9,500 per student per year in public education (approximately hitting the national average of $10,000), however has a three in 10 dropout rate. She also contended that though Arkansas was ranked fifth nationally by Education Week based on six standards of education, the rating was based on implementation of policy and facilities.
According to the rankings by Education Week, Arkansas rose from sixth to fifth overall nationally from 2011 to 2012. In the previous two years Arkansas ranked tenth. This year, the state fell behind Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia.
Watson, however, disagreed on both points, stating that on the latter point Masterson was only partially correct.
“Basically as far as I understand it, the rating is not for facilities, if it was there’s no way Arkansas would rank number five,” he said. “We ranked fifth for putting policies into place that allow students to have access to quality education.”
Presenting charts for his argument, Watson contended that in 2008-2009 — the latest years for which he had the data — Arkansas might have spent $8,712 (near the $10,499 national average), but that only placed the state at 41st in expenditures with a 3:10 dropout rate.
“There are a powerful amount of states that spend more money than we do, I wonder what their dropout rates are,” he said.
In the 2008-2009 school year, New York was the highest spending state at $18,126 per student per year, whereas Utah was the lowest at $6,356, according to the data presented by Watson.
Further, he pointed out that per the numbers given by Masterson, if Arkansas ranks 41st in expenditures and 37th in performance, the state’s performance outranks its expenditures, i.e.: There are four states that outspend Arkansas per student but achieve below Arkansas.