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Southwest Louisiana ,


Public school funding at a shortfall

Last Modified: Monday, March 24, 2014 11:47 AM

Public school superintendents and school board members are up in arms over a standstill budget appropriation approved by their state governing board.

State lawmakers are now considering the outlay in the Minimum Foundation Program, which provides state funding to public school systems. They have only the power to approve it or reject it, sending it back to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for modifications.

What has upset the public school administrators is the MFP lacks its traditional 2.75 percent annual increase. That amounts to about $70 million for the 2014-2015 school year. They say that without the additional money, school systems will have to shoulder increased costs due to inflation and the alarming rise in retirement costs.

St. Bernard Parish School Superintendent Doris Voitier said state spending per students remains at 2008-2009 levels while retirement costs have climbed dramatically during the same period.

Central School System Superintendent Michael Faulk said school systems will have to shell out more than $100 million in additional costs in the next school year.

State Superintendent of Education John White said the appropriation tracks the recommendations of a task force that recently studied public education. He said it includes $15 million in additional funding for training and help for students with disabilities and $40 million to cover increased enrollment.

He noted that state lawmakers added $69 million to last year’s public school funding.

Whether state lawmakers are able to provide the same sort of rescue this year is questionable. Though members of the Jindal administration have waived off criticism of the governor’s budget plan, some state lawmakers say that it may be as much as $80 million short of being balanced.

Such shortfalls put state legislators in a bind, and add to the degree of difficulty those voices that are crying out for more money. The pie is remaining the same while the demands on it are getting greater.

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