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Report from the Legislature

September 24th, 2012 by

September is fleeting and many subjects are being discussed and debated at the Capitol. I will just share a few with you that relate more directly to folks in southeast Arkansas.

The state’s lottery scholarship program is having problems partially due to decreased lottery ticket sales that may create a projected shortfall in the lottery scholarship program. At the present rate scholarship awards for this year are projected to exceed lottery revenues. Unspent lottery funds will take care of this year, but there is no plan in place for deal with future deficits.

As a possible solution, a plan is being promoted to award the scholarships at different amounts for each academic year. For example, freshmen would get only $2000, sophomores $3000, juniors $4000 and seniors $5000. (Students currently receive $4500 per year for four year colleges and $2250 per year for two year colleges. Some do not complete their degrees and the awards are seen as “wasted” by some. One legislator even advocates requiring students to pay the money back if a student doesn’t complete their degree whatever reason.)

This plan would put more emphasis on those staying focused on completing a degree. It is the proposed “tiered plan” you will hear more about in the near future. If adopted the plan would not affect any student currently receiving a scholarship.

Another plan puts more focus on “nontraditional” students – those who did not go directly to college from high school, or those who dropped out and now want to return and complete degrees. The thought is they have seen “life” without a degree and are now more focused on achieving that goal.

Another major topic being discussed is transportation funding for public schools. There is a projected need to increase funding for transportation costs to many schools. Three options for solving this problem are being studied based on current funding levels.

One option would be to distribute funding based on a formula that takes into account the number of total miles traveled and the number of riders. Under this proposed formula 203 of Arkansas’239 districts would receive more transportation funds and 36 would receive less.

Another option would give 150 of Arkansas’ 239 schools more funding while 89 would receive less. The third option would be to leave things as they are. Naturally every opinion is based on the effect on local school districts. Time will tell if a change is really afoot.

The Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) has also gathered some interesting health care research data for the state. However, I will just share with you information about parts of our district (Drew, Lincoln and Cleveland counties).

Drew County has a counted population of 11,211 adults between the ages of 19 and 64. 15% of these reported they could not see a doctor because of cost. 27% of Drew Countians do not have health insurance.

In Lincoln County there are 9,543 counted adults between the ages of 19 and 64. 21% report an inability to get medical treatment because of the cost. 30% do not have health insurance.

Cleveland County reports 5,055 adults between the ages of 19 and 64. 14% reported they could not see a doctor because of the cost. 25.5% do not have health insurance.

Statewide 25% of working Arkansans are uninsured. 16.5% report they cannot afford the cost of seeing a physician. In 2010 uncompensated care costs to Arkansas hospitals were estimated at $338 million +. 62% of all bankruptcies in the U.S. are due to medical debt.

All of this medical data was taken from the September 2012 ACHI newsletter. Fascinating and informing material! We really do have a medical crisis in Arkansas! Yet a friend sat three hours in an office Friday awaiting treatment for a head cold. The solution? It has to be somewhere out there. We just have to be serious and keep looking. It’s a problem for all of us in one way or another.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.

 

 

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