Section 2004 of the ARP Act includes new maintenance of equity provisions for local educational agencies (LEAs) to receive funds under ARP ESSER; however, there are conditions that may exempt an LEA from maintenance of equity requirements. School districts with a single school for each grade span or school districts with enrollment less than 1000 are exempt from maintenance of equity requirements. Under maintenance of equity requirements, a district must demonstrate that it did not reduce state and local funding to individual schools that are determined to be in high poverty locations. High poverty locations are identified as 25% of the schools with the highest poverty.
The ARP legislation does provide districts with some discretion on how it determines which individual schools are considered high poverty. A district may choose from several acceptable parameters for poverty and may also choose to use grade span grouping rather than a district-wide ranking method.
DESE sought specific guidance from USDE regarding grade span definitions and has been advised to use those grade spans employed in the school reportcard data. Those grade spans are available here: https://dese.ade.arkansas.gov/Offices/public-school-accountability/school-performance/report-card. For consistency, DESE will be using the same expenditure data that is used in reportcard data as well (state and local expenditures, as defined by federal reportcard guidance).
In an effort to assist affected school districts with meeting this requirement, the Arkansas Department of Education, Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has compiled data to establish a preliminary list of individual schools that are considered high poverty locations within each district according to the ARP legislation. Revisions will be completed as needed to account for changes in building configurations (i.e. closed campus). These preliminary designations are posted to the DESE website at Maintenance of Equity for review. Districts that are exempt from maintenance of equity requirements are identified on the reports.
The preliminary data developed by DESE uses FY21 Cycle 2 direct certification counts and enrollment to calculate a poverty parameter. It also uses a district-wide ranking method of all schools based on this poverty measure. There will be some adjustments to account for schools that have opened or closed since October 2020 so that the actual maintenance of effort analysis is conducted on current district structures. The school district should review its specific preliminary information and decide if it wishes to make any changes according to those decision points provided to it in the ARP law. If the district does choose to use other poverty data or a grade span grouping method, it should notify DESE Federal Finance staff at the contacts below. DESE Federal Finance staff hope to gather some mid-year FY22 expenditure data from eFinance in the upcoming months that will allow school districts time to address any potential maintenance of equity failings in FY22 before the year ends in June 2022.
Similar data will be compiled as FY23 proceeds as well.