23 Apr Panel OKs School Funding Bill (LA)April 23, 2010
By: Mike HastenSource: The Daily World
Over the obj ections of the Jindal administration, the Senate Education Committee has approved a public school funding plan that requires $72 million more than what’s in the governor proposed budget for next year.
Erin Bendily, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education adviser, submitted a card opposing state Sen. Ben Nevers’ proposal, but she did not speak against it after numerous proponents expressed support. The governor opposes the increased amount because the $72 million would throw his proposed budget out of balance.
"Today, we’re at a crossroads making a decision on how to continue to fund public education," said Nevers, D-Bogalusa, chairman of the committee.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 20 by Nevers reflects a $3.38 billion school funding formula submitted by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education with a controversial 6-5 vote. It includes a 2.75 percent increase that’s commonly granted but the governor’s office wants to bypass that provision and stick with the amount that’s currently funded.
"By eliminating the 2.75 percent from the formula as we did last year, we jeopardize the survival of school systems," he said.
The 2.75 percent accounts for $63 million of an overall $109 million increase in current-year funding. It boosts the base per pupil funding amount from $3,855 to $3,961 and half of the growth funds will go to pay raises for teachers.
BESE members, officials in the Department of Education and numerous school principals and superintendents supported the proposal in the Senate committee.
In St. Landry Parish, sales tax collections have dropped in each of the past three months, so Superintendent Michael Nassif says funding is tight .
Union Parish Superintendent Steve Dozier said his small school system has $1.2 million less in revenue this year and is facing a $600,000 increase in retirement costs. If the 2.75 percent increase is not approved "we’ll have a $2.1 million deficit. We are going to have to consolidate, close some schools that we hadn’t planned to do and we’re going to have to lay off teachers.