Friday, June 11, 2010

MFP: Pain in classrooms and communities

The House Education Committee met in a rare evening session Thursday to approve a zero-growth Minimum Foundation Program formula that LFT President Steve Monaghan said is likely to cause “pain in the classroom and pain in the communities.”

Without a dissenting vote, the committee sent HCR 243 by Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans), public education’s $3.4 billion budget, to the full House. Missing from the formula for the second year in a row is the traditional 2.75% “growth factor” that local school systems rely on to meet rising costs. The MFP will increase by about $44 million, but that is only to meet the per-pupil cost of about 6,000 new students in public schools.

Earlier in the week, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education agreed to scale back its budget request because of the state’s yawning gap between expenses and anticipated revenues. The state constitution forbids adoption of a budget with a deficit.

Monaghan was the only representative of an education organization to address the committee. He told members that failure to include the $65 million growth factor will be felt throughout the state. K-12 schools have already lost about $85 million in state funding this year, he said.

“If one appreciates the ‘bounce’ that school expenditures bring to local communities,” Monaghan said, “then one understands how the loss of revenues will impact the economy of whole communities.”

Monaghan cautioned that next year’s budget will pose an even greater threat of cuts.
While the recent recession is responsible for some of Louisiana’s budget woes, Monaghan said, the state would be in much better shape had governors and lawmakers not pushed for so many tax breaks during years when the economy was bright.

A report from the Louisiana Budget Project notes that Louisiana grants more than 400 tax expenditures in the form of deductions, exemptions and credits, Monaghan said. That amounts to more than $7 billion and is nearly as much as the state takes in as revenues.

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