Bowing to pressure from the legislature and Governor Bobby Jindal, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Tuesday agreed to a standstill K-12 education budget for the second year in a row.
“This will cause pain in the cities and in the hinterlands,” said Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan. “And it will only get worse next year, when another budget shortfall is predicted.”
Although BESE had, at first, proposed a traditional 2.76% increase in aid to public schools, lawmakers made it clear that any increase in funding would be rejected this year.
The funding formula for public schools, called the Minimum Foundation Program, is created by BESE, but has to be approved and funded by the legislature. Lawmakers can either accept or reject the formula, but cannot change it.
In the recent, BESE has approved at least 2.75% more for the MFP as a growth factor. But as the full effects of the recent recession kicked in, lawmakers and the governor balked at increasing funding.
This year, BESE asked for an increase of $109 million in the MFP. Of that, about $44 million is needed to pay for an increase of about 6,000 students in public schools. The rest, some $65 million, constituted the growth factor.
The legislature has not rejected this year’s funding request, but has sent strong signals that the $65 million growth factor is a stumbling block that would result in rejection.
BESE therefore decided to convene and restructure the MFP request before lawmakers could take action.
What is missing in the discussion of school funding, Monaghan said, is any mention of the actual cost of educating children.
Five years ago, Monaghan said, a Minimum Foundation Program task force was considered in order to conduct an adequacy study. Its goal would have been to determine how much it would cost to provide a truly appropriate education for all Louisiana children.
That idea was tabled on February 23, 2006, and the task force has failed to reconvene since then.
Advocate reporter Will Sentell covered the BESE meeting for this story.