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Editorial: Minimum Foundation Program overdue for overhaul

Last Modified: Tuesday, November 05, 2013 9:00 PM

A committee convened to review how the state of Louisiana funds public schools has found the method complex and, in some views, archaic.

Those may be as good as any reasons to overhaul the system, known as the Minimum Foundation Program.

But many of the 21 members of the panel charged with reviewing the MFP say that the five months they’ve been given to study it isn’t enough time to adequately comprehend it and make recommendations for dramatic changes.

The MFP formula is used to dole out $3.5 billion to fund public schools in the state.

Michael Faulk, the superintendent of the Central School System, said the formula has outlived its usefulness. State Superintendent of Education John White agreed, saying the system is hard for parents and taxpayers to understand.

Even committee members have said they’ve been thrown by the formula’s intricacies.

A central MFP tenet is to help those school districts that have low tax bases. But that has been done at the expense of other school districts like Calcasieu Parish, which has a large, robust tax base.

Faulk noted that the last major overhaul to the MFP came 20 years ago.

“The education landscape has changed,” he said.

Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association and a committee member, said it’s been 20 years since a study was conducted to determine how much it costs to educate a student.

Representatives of the state teacher unions have said the rising costs of teacher retirement and health care also need to be addressed in any revamp of the MFP. They argue that those costs are causing school districts to divert more money away from the classroom and into funding those other areas.

Most observers agree that the time constraints will likely lead to minor tweaks to the MFP.

Nevertheless, the task force should be re-authorized and given more time to peel all the layers of the MFP back so that comprehensive and constructive changes can be made to it.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Mike Jones, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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