BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana’s public elementary and secondary schools would get a $3.7 billion financing formula next year without any inflationary increases, under a plan advancing in the state Senate.
The formula , submitted by the state education board to pay for more than 700,000 students in the 2018-19 school year, won easy approval Thursday from the Senate Education Committee.
The amount paid per student would remain frozen at the current rate of $3,961. But the formula would grow slightly to account for an expected increase of nearly 2,800 students.
“It’s a standstill formula,” said Senate Education Chairman Dan “Blade” Morrish, a Republican from Jennings.
Education leaders have sought more money to boost teacher pay and cover rising school district expenses.
But the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education didn’t believe such increases could win legislative support when the state is struggling with continued budget gaps, including a shortfall estimated around $700 million in the upcoming financial year.
Teacher union officials said they understood Louisiana’s budget plight, but noted the public school formula has only had one inflationary increase over the last decade. They said teacher salaries in the state have been stagnant and fallen below the Southern regional average.
“Inflation has gone up. Those inflationary costs are going to hit our schools. We need to make sure that we are keeping up with salaries,” said Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators. “I would implore all of us to take a deeper look at what is needed to educate our students.”
Morrish was sympathetic to the comments, but also said if a proposal with an increase in spending on schools was submitted to lawmakers, “that recommendation probably would have been sent back” amid the current budget woes.
Lawmakers can only approve or reject the K-12 school financing formula — known as the Minimum Foundation Program — that the education board sends them. They cannot change it.
The plan moves next to the Senate budget committee for review.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 48: www.legis.la.gov
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