Friday, February 18, 2011

BESE freezes MFP, crisis declared in school districts

With the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education bowing to Gov. Bobby Jindal's demand for a third frozen year of school funding, districts around the state may be starting to fall into crisis like a line of dominoes.

As Advocate reporter Will Sentell wrote here, BESE agreed to forgo the traditional 2.75% growth factor in the Minimum Foundation Program, which funnels most state funds to local school boards.

BESE member Walter Lee, who is also superintendent of schools in DeSoto Parish, grimly predicted, "It is really going to be difficult for school systems."

The next day, the Livingston Parish School Board declared a "financial exigency" exists in the district, as a direct result of the BESE decision.

Advocate reporter Faimon Roberts put it this way: "The unanimous vote came after Superintendent Bill Spear told the board that by removing a 'growth factor' in its funding formula, the state had cut more than $7 million from Livingston Parish schools for the next three years, including the coming school year."

Teacher and staff layoffs are predicted, and a ripple effect from the cuts is feared. Board member Buddy Mincey Jr. said that the school system has been a driving factor in Livingston Parish's growth. "Strangling" education in Livingston could jeopardize the parish's future growth.

Just over the parish line in Tangipahoa, Superintendent of Schools Mark Kolwe told his board that their system, too, is in a state of exigency, and the board declared a financial crisis.

Hammond Daily Star reporter Bridgette Bonner wrote that layoffs are under consideration there, as well as the elimination of art and music programs, employee step raises, substitute teachers and other important education programs.

And as previously reported in EdLog, Gov. Jindal is recommending even more tax breaks for big business.

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