Understanding School Funding

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What is the Minimum Foundation Program? 

The MFP is the K-12 Funding Formula for Louisiana public schools. The MFP is different than just an item in the State budget, because the legislature can’t take money out of the MFP from year to year; once it’s there, it’s there to stay. When schools are funded in the annual budget (and the legislature can choose to dedicate additional funding for schools or teacher pay in the budget) that money can be taken away the following year (so if legislators ever talk about a raise in the budget, but not in the MFP, we all know that what they’re really talking about is a one-time stipend, not a raise).

For years, the MFP would increase by 2.75% each year to keep up with the cost of inflation, and occasionally we would get a little more – but then came Bobby Jindal and the Great Recession and the huge budget deficit and the regular increases stopped. Years passed without any increases in school funding. And, as we learn in economics class: when inflation continues to rise, but salaries remain stagnant, the impact is actually a net decrease, which is exactly what happened.

Finally, that started to change in 2019.

After years of belt-tightening and economic development, Louisiana had a surplus and we finally increased the MFP. We passed a $39 million increase for local school districts and $101 million for teacher/school employee pay raises. The first state-wide pay raise in a decade and an important step towards getting teachers and support staff to the southern regional average – but by no means enough to make of for the years of disinvestment.

This year, we must take another step forward.

Passing a new MFP with additional funding for schools or teacher/school employee raises is never guaranteed. It’s a long, bureaucratic process and there’s a lot of opportunities for it to go wrong.

  1. The path to pass an MFP each year starts with the MFP Task Force. This diverse group of educational stakeholders meets in February (occasionally, they’ll meet multiple times) and together they develop an MFP recommendation to send to BESE.
  1. BESE then considers the Task Forces’ recommendation and creates an MFP proposal. They must send their MFP proposal to the legislature no later than March 15th.
  1. Next, the MFP must be approved by both the House and the Senate. (Usually, this means getting approved by the House Education Committee, House Appropriations Committee, Senate Education and Senate Finance Committee before going to the full body).  
  1. In addition to passing the MFP legislatively, the House and Senate must also pass a budget that funds the MFP.
  1. Finally, the Governor will sign it into law.

There a lot of steps where something can go wrong. If the legislature doesn’t like the MFP that BESE proposed they can’t change it. They can only send it back to BESE. If the MFP gets sent back to BESE then they can either:

  • amend it and send a new MFP to the legislature for approval;
  • leave it unchanged;
  • or it’s possible that the legislature could send it to BESE too late in the session and BESE doesn’t have time to do anything with it.

If a new MFP isn’t passed, then we revert back to the previous year’s spending levels, which means no increases in salaries or school funding.


Where Are We Now?

Unfortunately, right now legislators don't yet know whether or not the state has additional funding to increase teacher and school employee salaries because of the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC). The REC decides how much taxpayer money lawmakers are allowed to spend, but for the second year in a row this supposedly non-political process has been held up with partisan grandstanding. This risks our ability to fund teacher and school employee pay raises, school funding, and other vital public programs.

Click here to send an email to the members of the REC. Tell them to do their job and pass a sensible revenue projection before it's too late!

On February 20th, the MFP Task Force met to determine their recommendation. After much deliberation, the Task Force voted to recommend an MFP formula with pay raises and additional school funding. To see an update from that meeting, click here.