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LFT supports $75 million increase in school funding

(Baton Rouge – December 16, 2014) Funding for public education’s Minimum Foundation Program will increase by some $75 million next year if a plan approved by the state’s MFP task Force today is adopted by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Legislature.

“We started an important conversation today about the choices Louisiana must make for the future of our children,” said Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan.

As originally written, the proposal by the MFP Task Force suggested a 2.75% increase in the MFP next year, but only “after receiving an assessment by the Legislature as to the availability of funds.”

Monaghan expressed strong concerns with that language, saying that it is up to the BESE to propose a funding level that is right for the children of the state.

“We will have a fiscal session next spring,” Monaghan said. “I know how strongly we feel that the formula must include the 2.75% increase.”

As finally adopted, the resolution only asked BESE to “engage in dialog with legislators” about the need for increased public education funding.

If the proposal makes its way through the process as conceived by the task force, the state base per-pupil funding will increase from $3,691 to $4,070. Different weights are then applied to the base amount based on special needs, local funding and other issues.

BESE will send the legislature an MFP formula, which lawmakers may accept or reject, but cannot change.

Some on the task force pointed out that lawmakers will face a deficit approaching $1.4 billion when the session opens in April.

But Monaghan referred to the billions of dollars that the state spends annually in tax expenditures to pay for various tax breaks that have been granted over the years. A recent spate of news articles have questioned the amount spent on exemptions, and whether or not the state gets its money’s worth for the big business tax breaks.

“It is up to the legislature to make choices,” he said. “There must be a conversation about revenues and choices.

The task force resolution also called for a long-awaited study to determine the actual cost to educate a child in Louisiana.

“As long as we only fund our schools with the money that the legislature says is available, we don’t meet the needs of all our children,” Monaghan said.

For years, the LFT has pushed for a study to ascertain the true cost of education, and to provide the funds to meet that obligation. The task force’s proposal calls for an in-depth, year-long study of the MFP formula and “its efficacy in meeting its constitutional mandates.” Outside consultants should be brought in to shepherd the study, according to the resolution.

The task force has 22 members representing legislators, teacher unions, BESE members, school boards, principals, superintendents and other stakeholders, as well as two ex-officio members. Today’s vote was virtually unanimous, with only two members, State Senator Conrad Appel and State Representative Simone Champagne voting against it.

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