Louisiana state school board requests $82M spending boost

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

Louisiana’s state school board voted without objection Wednesday to ask the Louisiana Legislature to increase education spending by about $82 million.

The spending bump is more than twice what Gov. John Bel Edwards requested in his executive state budget proposal. Teachers’ groups hope lawmakers can find additional money to get Louisiana educators’ pay closer to the regional average.

The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) proposes each year a Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) formula, which lays out state spending for K-12 education. The Legislature can approve or reject the board’s proposed MFP, or send it back to BESE for reconsideration, but cannot change it.

If lawmakers don’t approve a new formula before their legislative session ends, the current formula stays in place for the next school year. Wednesday’s board action is the first step in what could be an extended negotiation between the BESE and the Legislature.

The proposed formula includes an additional $40 million to boost teacher pay by $400 annually and $200 for support staff, which mirrors Edwards’ proposal. It also adds $40 million to local districts’ base per-pupil allocation, raising it from $4,015 to $4,070, and $2 million to pay $2,000 stipends to certified mentor teachers, neither of which is included in the governor’s budget.

Edwards, a Democrat, has pledged to raise teacher pay to the southern average by the time he leaves office.

The BESE is asking the Legislature to let the board alter its funding request if additional money becomes available during the state budgeting process.

“The approved MFP formula, developed with broad stakeholder input, represents a strong starting point in the process,” BESE President Sandy Holloway said. “We look forward to working with our partners in the Legislature in the weeks ahead to equitably and effectively meet the funding needs of all students, educators and schools.”

The Legislature kicks off this year’s regular session April 12 and must adjourn by 6 p.m. June 10.