Public schools facing another tough year

The American Press

{{tncms-inline alignment=”left” content=”<p class="p1">This editorial was written by a member of the <em>American Press</em> Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the board, whose members are <strong>Crystal Stevenson</strong>,<strong> John Guidroz</strong>,  retired editor <strong>Jim Beam</strong> and retired staff writer <strong>Mike Jones</strong>. </p>” id=”88b00e18-7476-4e48-851a-15e8c21c22b2″ style-type=”info” title=”EDITORIAL BOARD” type=”relcontent” width=”half”}}

Louisiana’s public schools apparently will have to go another year without the 2.75 percent annual increase in state support they used to get, which has happened for nine of the past 10 years. The state is facing a $648 million shortfall for the 2018-19 fiscal year starting July 1.

Overall public school support from federal, state and local funds in Louisiana totaled $11,010 per student in 2015, ranking it in the middle of the 50 states. The $3.7 billion in state support public schools are getting for more than 700,000 students translates to $3,961 per student.

The Advocate said had state support risen by 2.75 percent every year; the total spending per student would now be $4,921. Nationally, public schools get an average of 8 percent federal support, 47 percent state support and 45 percent local support. In Louisiana, the state is only contributing 35 percent to its public schools.

New York in 2015 spent $21,206 per student in federal, state and local support for the No. 1 position. Utah spent $6,575, the lowest amount of federal, state and local support. The average student support nationally was $11,392.

The Senate Finance Committee approved the Minimum Foundation Program, which funds Louisiana’s public schools this week, and no changes are expected as the $3.7 billion makes its way through the legislative process.

Local school superintendents aren’t happy about their standstill state support, but reluctantly accept it in the face of the state’s dire financial situation. Those annual increases they haven’t been getting were paying for increases in health insurance and retirement costs.

The Central School District in East Baton Rouge Parish is spending nearly $600,000 for those two items in the coming school year.

“We kind of expected it; we kind of prepared for it,” Wesley Watts, superintendent of the West Baton Rouge Parish school district told The Advocate. “It just continually makes it tougher for us to provide the number of personnel we would like to put in front of our students.”

Public schools and higher education institutions have faced some tough financial times over the last decade, and it appears the future won’t be much brighter without more state support, which is getting harder and harder to generate.

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the board, whose members are Crystal Stevenson, John Guidroz,  retired editor Jim Beam and retired staff writer Mike Jones

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