Friday, May 17, 2024

Louisiana Senate Education Committee approves school funding formula

by BIZ Magazine

By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor

The Senate Education Committee on Friday approved a resolution to adopt a school funding formula for next year with teacher pay raises and bonuses, despite opposition in the House.

The Senate Education Committee last week voted down the state education board’s changes to its funding formula, detailed in Senate Concurrent Resolution 2, that include a $2,000 raise for teachers, $1,000 raise for support staff and stipends for teachers in certain schools and leadership roles.

SCR 2 is projected to increase school funding by $282 million, with $197.7 million going toward pay raises for teachers and support workers. The House approved a budget last week without the pay raises, opting instead to spend surplus and excess funds on pension debt to avoid increasing a spending cap in the constitution.

House Republicans argued local districts could apply savings from pension obligations toward the raises. Senate leaders and Gov. John Bel Edwards want to increase the spending cap, which requires approval from two-thirds of lawmakers in both chambers, to fund the raises, as well as investments in neglected state facilities, and road and bridge projects.

The rejection of SCR 2 sent the proposal back to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which is the only entity authorized to revise the funding formula, but BESE voted to defer action on Wednesday.

“The MFP formula is critically important to our K-12 students, educators, and school systems,” BESE President Holly Boffy said.

“The successful passage of this annual funding proposal ultimately hinges on a consensus among BESE members and lawmakers on education funding priorities,” she said. “As we move toward that consensus, our Board remains committed to working with the legislature to advance a formula that increases funding for education and recognizes our teachers as the leading in-school factor in creating positive outcomes for children.”

The Senate Education Committee reconsidered SCR 2 on Friday, opting to approve the resolution despite the likely rejection from the House.

“I am of the opinion we should move the bill out of committee in its present form,” said Chairman Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge. “We cannot amend the proposal sent by BESE, we can only reject it or accept it. I think because of the late date and hour, I think we should accept their proposal and send it to the House.”

Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, has said he’s confident two-thirds of lawmakers in the House will not vote to increase the expenditure limit to fund the proposal, and hinted there may not be enough support in the Senate, either.

A BESE statement contends “the board is prepared to call another special meeting in the coming days to discuss the (funding formula) as discussions in the legislature move forward.”

Lawmakers have until June 8 to find a compromise or face the possibility of a special session to finalize a budget.

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