Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Week In Review


State Capitol Week in Review
November 24, 2017
            LITTLE ROCK – State-supported universities in Arkansas spent $176 million on athletics last year, a 6.3 percent increase over the previous year. Two-year colleges spent $600,000. 
            About 72 percent of the income that was spent on sports came from ticket sales, license fees and sources of athletic department income. Almost $26 million, or 13 percent, of the money spent on athletics came from fees charged to students.
            Universities may spend a certain proportion of their state funding on athletics. Last year they spent $12.6 million in state aid on athletics.
            A state law enacted in 1989 requires colleges and universities to submit annual reports on athletic expenditure to the Higher Education Department. The institutions must use uniform accounting procedures and standard definitions of what amounts to spending on athletics, so that comparisons are valid.
The report on athletic spending in 2016-2017 was presented to the state Higher Education Coordinating Board at its October meeting.
            The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville has by far the largest athletic program in the state. Its total spending on athletics last year was more than $106 million. However, due to the popularity of Razorback athletic events, the university brings in so much revenue from ticket sales, royalties and licensing fees that it does not use any state aid to supplement its sports budget.
            The only other institution that did not transfer from its general education budget for athletics was the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. Its athletic budget was $3.5 million.
            Arkansas State University at Jonesboro spent $18.2 million on athletics, the University of Central Arkansas at Conway spent $12.5 million and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock spent $9.2 million.
            Salaries represent a large proportion of total spending on athletics. All Arkansas institutions of higher education spent more than $62 million last year on salaries in their athletic departments. That was 35 percent of the total amount spent on athletics.
            The Razorback athletic department spent $30.1 million on salaries. ASU athletics spent $4.4 million on salaries. UCA and UALR each spent $2.8 million on athletic department salaries.
            The second largest spending category for university athletic departments was scholarships for players. The statewide total was almost $31 million.
            The Fayetteville campus reported that $9.3 million went for athletic scholarships. ASU reported $5.5 million, UCA $4 million and UALR $2.5 million.
            Other significant expenses of the Razorback athletic program were game guarantees to universities whose teams play at Fayetteville. That item cost the program $3.6 million last year. Debt service cost the athletic program $11.4 million. Team travel cost $9 million. Fringe benefits for personnel cost $6.9 million. Rentals and maintenance of facilities cost $7 million.
            Equipment and uniforms for Razorback players cost $3.6 million. Medical expenses and medical insurance cost the athletic program $1.6 million.
            Ticket sales to Razorback games brought in $40.7 million in revenue. Another $16 million came from the NCAA and Southeast Conference, which distributes revenue from television networks to its members. Broadcast rights for television, radio and Internet streaming brought in $30.1 million. Royalties and licensing, from firms paying for the right to use the Razorback logo and from sales of souvenirs, brought in $14 million.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – When the governor and the director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission journeyed to China and Japan on a trade mission, it underscored how important foreign trade is to the Arkansas economy.
            For example, more than 20 companies have manufacturing operations in Arkansas that employ about 5,300 people.
            Two years ago there were four Chinese companies in Arkansas that hired about 10 workers, but since then our connections with Chinese businesses have changed dramatically. In the past 18 months four other Chinese companies have agreed to open manufacturing plants in Arkansas. Their combined investments in Arkansas will total more than $1.7 billion and they will create about 1,500 jobs.
            According to the AEDC, plants owned by foreign companies employed more than 34,500 Arkansans last year. Most of those jobs were in manufacturing, mainly industrial machinery, food and timber products, metals and transportation equipment.
            The largest foreign-owned companies with Arkansas locations are from the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Switzerland and Canada.
            Exports to foreign markets are important to the Arkansas economy. According to the International Trade Administration, which is a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, 2,365 businesses in Arkansas exported goods overseas on 2014. They employed 49,000 people.
Of the Arkansas companies that exported products to foreign countries, 80 percent were small or medium sized businesses.
            The Commerce Department reported that last year the countries that bought the most Arkansas products were Canada, France, Mexico, Japan and China. The top Arkansas products sold abroad were transportation equipment, chemicals, processed foods, machinery and paper.
            Engines and parts for civilian aircraft were a major component of the transportation equipment exported by Arkansas firms. Rice and poultry products, including eggs, were at the top of the list of food products exported from Arkansas.
            About 47 percent of Arkansas exports are to countries which have signed free trade agreements with the United States. The most significant, measured in dollars, is the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. Also, Arkansas firms ship products to the Dominican Republic and central American counties under the CAFTA-DR agreement, and to Singapore, Australia and Colombia under separate free trade agreements.
            Almost $6 billion worth of Arkansas products were exported overseas in 2015. The AEDC has offices in Shanghai, Tokyo and Berlin with officials who promote Arkansas as a location for foreign companies looking to expand.
Prison Overtime Pay
            A legislative committee reviewed a request by the state Correction Department to spend an additional $2 million on overtime pay for security officers.
            The money will be transferred from other prison programs. State prison units are working to fill vacancies and retain experienced personnel. Of 4,700 positions 300 are vacant, according to the director of prisons.
            State prisons this year have experienced an alarming number of violent incidents in which officers are injured and in which inmates have been injured or killed. The State Police told legislators they have investigated 28 assaults by inmates on guards this year.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – In its past two regular sessions the Arkansas legislature has lowered state income tax rates and also made significant reductions in other types of state taxes.
            In preparation for the next regular session, in 2019, a panel of legislators is working on further tax reductions. The Senate chairman of the group has said that further reductions of about $100 million a year should be a starting point for income tax reductions.
            The Tax Reform and Relief Legislative Task Force has 16 members – eight from the Senate and eight from the House of Representatives. Its duty is to recommend changes in the state tax code that will create jobs and make Arkansas more attractive to businesses. Also, it will recommend reforms that will modernize and simplify the tax code, while making it fairer for all taxpaying entities within the state.
            During a series of early November meetings at the Capitol, the task force concentrated on the structure of the Arkansas sales tax and our various excise taxes. In December the task force is scheduled to focus on property taxes and will bring in experts from other states that have recently enacted tax reforms.
            Sales taxes are one of the three major sources of revenue for Arkansas state government, along with individual and corporate income taxes. The task force has contracted with a consultant to research our tax structure and compare it with other states.
The research indicates that Arkansas is very near the national average in the percentage of state revenue that is generated by sales taxes. Nationally, the average is 47.5 percent and in Arkansas it is 48.6 percent.
            Sales taxes fall within the category of taxes on consumption. One of the main arguments against over reliance on sales taxes is that they can be regressive, meaning that poor people pay a higher proportion of their income on sales taxes than do people in upper-income brackets.
            On the positive side, sales taxes are economically efficient because almost everyone pays them. They are not collected on two major generators of economic growth, which are capital investment and people’s savings. They do not create a disincentive that dampens people’s motivations to work and earn more.
            The Arkansas sales tax was adopted in 1935 and the current state rate is 6.5 percent. In 1981 the legislature granted cities and counties the authority to hold elections on locally applied sales taxes. Voters in more than 200 of the state’s 500 municipalities, and in 73 of our 75 counties, have approved local option sales taxes.
            Arkansas, like most states, has approved exemptions from the sales tax for specific industries or products. Groceries and medications are commonly exempted, either partially or totally. 
Arkansas exempts motor fuels from sales taxes, which lowered state revenue by $380 million in 2011. However, motorists and truckers paid even more in taxes when they filled their tanks. In 2011 motor fuels taxes on gas and diesel generated $444 million.
            Excise taxes are collected on specific items or activities, such as tobacco, alcohol, tourism and gaming. Nationally, excise taxes generate 16.2 percent of states’ revenues, on average. In Arkansas they generate 13.5 percent of state revenue, or more than $1.3 billion a year.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas State Police is working on changes to concealed carry regulations to enforce the intent of Acts 562 and 859, which the legislature approved earlier this year.
            Act 562 expands the number of locations where a permit holder can legally carry a concealed firearm, such as public facilities. In order to legally carry in those additional locations, the owner of the firearm must complete additional training to obtain an enhanced license.
            Permit holders who maintain the traditional non-enhanced will continue to be prohibited from carrying a concealed firearm in public buildings, schools, colleges, universities, churches, bars and at parades that require a permit. 
            A person who obtains an enhanced permit can legally carry on public colleges and universities. However, even with an enhanced permit it will be prohibited to carry concealed firearms at collegiate sporting events such as football games. Also, it will be prohibited to carry at the State Hospital or the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Also, a student with an enhanced concealed carry may not store a firearm in his or her dormitory room.
            Several areas will remain prohibited, even for holders of enhanced carry permits. Those locations include prisons, courtrooms and public schools from kindergarten through grade 12. There are allowances for school security guards to carry firearms, and private schools can allow permit holders to carry on school grounds.
Churches and bars can allow or prohibit the carrying of firearms on their premises. They can post a written notice, or verbally notify the permit holder that firearms are not permitted.
At a public hearing conducted by the State Police there were questions from instructors, who train applicants in the use of firearms and teach them on the rules that specify where the carry of concealed firearms remains prohibited.
The State Police will accept written comments until 4 p.m. on November 10. The proposed regulations that will implement Acts 562 and 859 can be found on the State Police web site at the address of its Administrative and Regulatory Division: http://asp.ark.org/publications/
The page has a list of bulleted items and the top item is: “Notice of Proposed Rules Changes – Arkansas Concealed Handgun Licensing.” If you click on it, it opens onto the proposed regulations.
After the State Police compiles the public comments and any changes in the new rules, it will submit them to the legislature’s Administrative rules and Regulations Subcommittee for consideration at its December meeting.
About 225,000 people in Arkansas have a concealed carry permit and there are about 1,000 instructors.
Educational Adequacy
            The Senate Education Committee voted to make two revisions to the adequacy report that lawmakers will use in the 2018 fiscal session as the basis for deciding how much state aid to distribute to public schools. They are to add about $2 million for special education catastrophic funding and $3 million for transportation funding.
            The adequacy recommendation for Fiscal Year 2019 is to increase the per pupil foundation rate to $6,781, making the total of state aid to schools more than $3 billion.
            Under the state Constitution, the state has the duty to provide an adequate education to all children in the state, regardless of the relative prosperity of the district in which they live.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – Every year Arkansas Medicaid spends about $2 billion to pay for medical treatment and services for about 150,000 people with developmental or intellectual disabilities, mental illness or substance abuse disorders.
            The state Department of Human Services is selecting about 30,000 of the people enrolled in Medicaid for a new program, based on their acute medical needs. The cost of their health care is about $1 billion a year. 
Next year they will become members of new organizations owned by health care providers that will coordinate their care.
            The goal is to improve their health care while also reducing Medicaid costs that are covered by taxpayers. The state and federal governments share those costs. Generally, Medicaid reimburses health care providers on a fee-for-service basis.
The new system going into place in 2018 will generally pay provider groups a fixed amount per individual. Beginning on January 1, 2019, Medicaid will make a “global payment” to the organizations. 
That global payment will cover the cost of care, administration and case management for the 30,000 people who have been selected to join those organizations.
            The Human Services Department (DHS) is calculating a “baseline” amount that Medicaid now spends on the care of those 30,000 people. In 2019, the department’s global payments to the provider organizations will be reduced below the baseline amount to guarantee savings for the state and federal government.
It then will be up to the organization to provide the most efficient types of care to its members, and to provide the most appropriate level of services. The organizations will determine how to apportion financial risk among the providers in its network.
As the new Medicaid system gets established, observers of government and political affairs will have to get used to a new acronym – PASSE. That stands for Provider-led Arkansas Shared Savings Entity, which is the name of the organizations that will coordinate care for the 30,000 Medicaid recipients with acute medical needs.
In September the department began making individual assessments of the 30,000 people to determine which PASSE they will be assigned to, and the level of care they will receive. If a person has a strong relationship with a particular provider, that person will be assigned to the PASSE in which the provider works.
Beneficiaries will be able to change from one PASSE to another, once a year, without having to show cause. However, if they are not getting the care they need, they can change PASSE during the year by showing cause.
DHS officials are confident that beneficiaries will continue to receive good care, while the costs will stabilize. According to a department presentation, well-established research shows that the cost of acute care is minimized by improved case management, because it eliminates duplication and unnecessary care.
The current system has no incentive for providers to keep beneficiaries out of the hospital, or out of expensive stays in an in-patient psychiatric facility. The new system will have such incentives.
Medicaid programs in Minnesota, Oregon and Vermont report cost savings from coordinated care resulting from fewer emergency room visits and hospital admissions.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – The number of violent incidents in Arkansas prison units was above normal this past summer, causing the Department of Correction to initiate a three-part strategy to improve safety inside prison walls.
            The department will upgrade security equipment in entrance buildings, as well as in recreation areas. Two incidents at the Tucker unit occurred after inmates escaped through the fencing around their recreation cages and went into other areas of the prison unit.
In one incident, a group of inmates overpowered two security officers and took keys and a Taser. They held the officers for three hours.
In the other incident, a guard fired three warning shots in the air to disrupt a fight in which two guards and an inmate were assaulted.
In all four of the state’s maximum security units, the department will tighten security by building controlled access points at the entrances to barracks. Many inmates are housed in open barracks. A few guards in a securely closed room keep the barracks under observation. This past summer, several violent incidents occurred in the open barracks.
The four maximum security units are at Tucker, Cummins, Varner and Brickeys, in Lee County.
The third part of the department’s plan is to convert about 400 cells now connected to open areas, to make them more secure so they can be used for unruly inmates. Department officials have told the legislature that more space for isolation is needed, to protect inmates from being attacked by the unruly prisoners and to preserve overall security inside the prison units.
The governor supports the plan. He requested that prison officials develop improved safety measures in late September, after three guards were hurt in two separate incidents at two different prison units. 
A guard was assaulted in the maximum security unit at Tucker, and later on the same day a group of inmates assaulted two guards at the Varner unit. All three guards suffered injuries.
A legislative committee has approved the department’s proposal to increase hazard pay at its most dangerous units, in an attempt to fill their staffing vacancies. The Correction Department director told a legislative committee that about 300 positions are vacant, of a total of about 4,700. Part of the challenge of filling the vacancies is that most prison units are in isolated, rural areas.
The legislature appropriated about $350 million for state prison operations this year. The state has jurisdiction over 18,180 inmates, but not all of them are housed in prison units. On any given day, more than 1,000 are likely to be held in county jails, waiting until space is available in a prison unit. About 300 inmates are assigned to work duties in county jails or local State Police headquarters.
Also this past summer, a 25-year-old inmate in the Tucker unit died after he was assaulted by another inmate. Numerous fights occurred throughout the prison system. The director of prisons told the state Board of Correction Department that the number of fights tends to increase in summer, but the increase was sharper this year.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Correction Department houses 18,180 inmates. If it were a city, it would be the 24th largest in Arkansas, but the system is spread across the state in 19 prison units and several other secure facilities.
            About 1,450 will be in the jails of the 75 counties in Arkansas, waiting until space is available in a prison unit. Arkansas has contracted with Texas to house 333 inmates in Bowie County, across the state line from Texarkana. 
About 250 inmates are in county jails under the 309 program. It’s named for Act 309 of 1983, which authorizes state inmates to work clerical and maintenance jobs for counties. Another 61 inmates work at State Police headquarters throughout the state.
            A large component of the prison population, 3,477 inmates, is assigned to the Agriculture Division of the state Correction Department. That is a modern, bureaucratic name for prison farms. 
            Like those in several other southern states, the oldest existing prison units in Arkansas began as farms. The state purchased 10,000 acres for the Cummins unit in 1902. Inmates had been housed on a 15-acre site in Little Rock. The first death chamber was built at Cummins and in 1913 the first inmate was executed there. He was a 21-year-old from Prairie County convicted of rape.
            In 1916 the state bought 4,400 acres for the Tucker prison farm. In 1933 the prison in Little Rock, known as “The Walls,” was closed and all inmates were transferred to the Cummins unit or the Tucker unit.
            For the past 100 years the Correction Department has been accumulating farm property and now has more than 20,000 acres in production. Of those, 14,000 acres are for row crops and 5,200 are pasture for livestock. The prisons have 30 acres of orchard and 650 acres of vegetable garden.
            Arkansas prison farms own 2,400 swine and 462 dairy cows. In an average month, 150 hogs are slaughtered for inmate consumption. Milk production averages 500 to 800 gallons a day. 
            The department hires private contractors for crop dusting and it leases heavy equipment like combines.
            A legislative audit determined that yields in 2015 for wheat, soybeans, corn and sorghum were below average yields in the private sector. However, the yield for rice was higher. Correction officials attributed the lower than average production levels to the lack of wells.
On privately-owned farms there is usually a well for irrigating every 80 to 100 acres, the official told legislative auditors. However, at Cummins there is a well for every 190 acres and at Tucker for every 140 acres. The East Arkansas unit near Brickeys, in Lee County, has row crops and it too has a well every 140 acres.
Legislators pay close attention to the Correction Department’s operations because they account for about $350 million a year in state general revenue. The department has about 4,500 employees, with 64 being paid from farm income to work with inmates assigned to prison farms.
The prison farms are a $20 million operation. In 2015, the year of the legislative audit, inmates consumed $8.7 million of food from prison farms. The farms sold $9.5 million in products. 
According to auditors, the agriculture division would have generated $1.8 million in income that year above expenses. However, it transferred capital assets to other divisions within the Correction Department.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – Several Arkansas universities reported record enrollments this fall, while the size of the freshmen class at other institutions has gone down since last year.
            Each campus compiles official enrollment figures on its 11th day of the fall semester. Different universities begin their fall semester on different dates, so not every campus submitted its enrollment report to the Department of Higher Education on the same day.
            The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville enrolled its largest freshman class, of 5,065 new students. This year is the first time the number of freshmen at the Fayetteville campus has exceeded 5,000.
            About 49 percent of the freshmen at Fayetteville are from Arkansas, which matches the rate of last year. The university’s student population has grown remarkably in the past several years, in large part because of an influx of out-of-state students. Total enrollment at Fayetteville is now 27,558. That is a growth of 364 students over last year.
            Southern Arkansas University at Magnolia has also been growing in the past few years, and this fall’s enrollment reflected a couple of records. The freshman class of 870 is the largest ever at SAU and total undergraduate enrollment is a record 3,450.
            Arkansas State University at Jonesboro, Arkansas Tech at Russellville and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock all reported declines in the size of their freshman class. 
ASU enrolled 1,644 new students last year and 1,427 this year. Arkansas Tech enrolled 1,591 freshmen last year and 1,561 this year. UALR enrolled 1,564 last year and 1,325 this year.
The reasons for a decline in enrollment vary, but a major factor is the decision by campuses to raise admission standards and focus on retention of students. 
Arkansas must increase the number of college graduates if we intend to be competitive in the global economy, according to elected officials and leaders in business and higher education.
ASU did report a record number of graduate students, 4,336, and a record number of doctoral candidates, 291. Also, a record number of 663 high school students are taking classes for college credit through the university.
Freshman enrollment at the University of Central Arkansas at Conway grew slightly, from 1,880 to 1,937. University officials were pleased that the incoming class was the strongest academically in university history, in terms of test scores and grade point averages. This year’s freshman class at UCA has an average ACT composite score of 24.3 and an average 3.5 grade point average.
The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith saw an increase of 3 percent in the number of new students enrolling this fall. UAFS now has 1,105 first-time students.
Recruiting more international students and expanding the size of online classes are two methods that have potential for increasing enrollment at several Arkansas universities.
Financial stress is a reason that many students fail to complete their higher education. Academic Challenge Scholarships, which are funded by the lottery, are the state’s most popular program. More than 31,000 students have earned the scholarships since the lottery began in 2009.
Lottery sales in August set a record, because of interest in a very large Powerball jackpot. The Arkansas lottery had total revenue of $49.3 million in August. Of that amount, $8.9 million will go for scholarships.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas has made progress in placing foster children with relatives, bringing the state’s rate for family placements to the national average.
            Nationwide, 29 percent of foster children are placed with family members and in Arkansas the rate is 28.8 percent. Two years ago the rate in Arkansas was 14 percent.
            Increasing the number of family placements has been a goal of the Children and Family Services Division. The improvement was commended by the governor and legislators who focus on foster care issues, although everyone involved noted that the state needs to continue making progress.
            Last year division officials said that the child welfare system was in crisis. High caseloads were causing unacceptably high turnover rates among family services workers. 
New workers needed time to learn the details of individual cases, which slowed the processing of placement and caused more children to remain in the system for longer periods of time. 
The number of children under state care grew to more than 5,000 and showed little sign of slowing down. Last year, estimates were that the number of children in foster care would quickly grow to 5,800. However, the reforms put in over the past year have slowed growth and the number of foster children in Arkansas is a little more than 5,000.
The legislature approved the governor’s proposals to add staff, recruit more foster families and streamline the regulatory process. Family services workers have received raises. The division plans to add 228 new employees over the current fiscal biennium.
Average caseloads have gone down, from 28 per worker to 22. A national standard for child welfare caseloads is 15.
The number of cases in which investigations are behind schedule has also dropped, from 721 to 51. Overdue investigations prevent children from leaving the system and getting placed with a family. Moving children from one home to another can be emotionally traumatic, and judges with jurisdiction over placements require certainty that case workers have done all they can to further the children’s best interests.
Another major factor in the state’s improved child welfare system is that religious and faith-based organizations have made it a goal to recruit new foster parents. Since 2016 the number of foster homes has grown from 1,549 to 1,821. Division officials attributed much of that success specifically to The Call and Christians 4 Kids.
In the legislative session earlier this year, lawmakers did more than increase funding for child services. They also approved Act 1116, which requires case workers to conduct an immediate assessment when they take custody of a child, in order to locate a non-custodial parent or a relative.
The list includes parents of half-brothers and half-sisters of the child in state custody. It also includes “fictive kin,” which is defined as a person whom the child identifies as having played a significant and positive role in the child’s upbringing.
The division will work toward more goals, such as finding homes for foster children who are traditionally harder to place, such as teenagers and children with special needs. Also, even though the number of placements is better on a statewide average, there are particular counties that still need a great deal of improvement.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review
            LITTLE ROCK – The ACT is the most important standardized test for high school students in Arkansas, and every year parents and educators anticipate the releasing of test scores to see how our students are performing.
            In the past decade Arkansas students have shown steady improvement because more of them are taking college preparatory courses. However, their average scores have usually been slightly below the national average and on par with neighboring states.
            This year marks a dramatic shift in how Arkansas administers the ACT tests and interprets the composite scores. For the first time, every student in the eleventh grade took the test, rather than merely those students who had plans to go to college.
As recently as 2013 a third of high school juniors in the state did not take the ACT, but now Arkansas is one of 17 states nationwide in which all eleventh graders take it.
Earlier this year, 34,451 high school juniors took the ACT. They are now seniors. In 2013 the number of Arkansas juniors who took the test was 25,875.
As a result of dramatically expanding the number of test takers, the average score went down from 20.2 last year to 19.4 this year. The best possible score is 36.
The ACT has four subject areas – English, reading, math and science. Nationwide and in Arkansas, students performed best on the reading section. Our average score was 19.7, down from 20.7 in 2016.
In math Arkansas students’ average score was 19 this year, compared to 19.6 last year. In English it was 18.9 this year and 19.8 last year. In science the average score in Arkansas fell from 20.2 in 2016 to 19.5 in 2017.
In spite of the declines in average test scores, the state’s top education officials were encouraged by the results. First of all, a large number of new students was added to the cohort, which is the official terminology for the group taking the test.
The total number of test takers grew by 35 percent over the past four years, so the slight decline in average scores is not a cause for great concern. Those new test takers are the students who never planned to go to college or pursue academics, and they generally take the ACT only once.
Students planning for college often take the test more than once in order to bring up their score. The average score of students who took the test only once was 16.5, and for students who took it multiple times the average score was 21.1.
The state Department of Career Education offers evening and weekend classes for students who score below a 19 and want to improve their scores on a second attempt at the ACT.
Students who score below 19 must take remedial course work in college. Those classes bring their academics up to college level, and the student does not earn college credits for passing them. 
Arkansas students must score a 19 to qualify for Academic Challenge Scholarships, which are funded by the state lottery.
In several neighboring states all high school juniors now take the ACT. In Louisiana the average score was 19.5, in Mississippi it was 18.6, in Missouri it was 20.4 and in Tennessee it was 19.8.