Another immoral, unconstitutional, inadequate funding formula for Louisiana's K-12 schools

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LFT has six specific objections to the funding formula

Despite solid opposition from three of the biggest stakeholders in public education, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved Superintendent John White’s proposed $3.46 billion public school spending formula and sent it to the legislature for adoption.

Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan, Louisiana School Boards Association Executive Director Scott Richard and Louisiana Association of School Superintendents President Michael Faulk all agreed that the spending formula cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny and does not meet the educational needs of Louisiana’s school children.

The LFT has spelled out six specific objections to the formula approved by BESE on March 8. The Federation was the only teacher organization to speak in opposition to the Minimum Foundation Program proposal.

LFT President Steve Monaghan said the message behind this year’s MFP “is murky at best,” given that important elements that were included in the past have been deleted.

For the first time, Monaghan said, this MFP omits the language in the State Constitution that defines the formula as the state’s funding mechanism for public elementary and secondary schools. That matters, he said, because of the recent ruling against the voucher program and the pending supreme court hearing.

Additionally, he said, “for the fifth straight year, the MFP has been frozen. Teachers and students alike are suffering in school districts because of it. We have seen an acceleration of teachers leaving the classroom.”

Monaghan also spoke about the “surgical removal” of language that has been in every previous formula requiring a 2.75% increase in funding if the legislature and BESE cannot agree on the formula.

In a partial victory for the stakeholders, a committee of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education agreed to consider creating an MFP study panel at next month’s board meeting. An MFP advisory panel existed in the past, but has not met since 2007.

The 8-3 vote came after a long, seven-hour committee debate. The three members voting against the proposal were Lottie Beebe, Carolyn Hill and Walter Lee.

Following its adoption by BESE, the MFP will go to the legislature for inclusion in the state budget. Lawmakers may accept or reject the formula, but may not change it.

The LFT has identified six specific objections to the funding formula proposed by BESE:

  • The actual cost of educating students on a per pupil basis has never actually been calculated by the Department of Education. Despite that fact, BESE approved a2013-14 MFP resolution that freezes per pupil funding for the fifth consecutive year. As costs of education and administration continue to rise, this formula the needs of students across the state.
  • The 2013-14 MFP resolution again proposes to unconstitutionally rob public schools to pay for vouchers for unaccountable, unproven private schools that cannot properly serve students with unique characteristics. It also includes dollars for corporate course providers from out of state, and in many cases, from outside of the United States. These measures send our state and locally levied dollars to Wall Street instead of to our classrooms. Even after a district Court held that such diversion of funds is illegal, BESE chose to approve this measure.
  • The 2013-14 MFP fails to include a level of funding to be used for the employer's portion of retirement costs, even though the law requires that it do so.
  • The 13-14 MFP would add another illegal component this year by instituting a version of special needs funding that discriminates and segregates special needs students. A similar "weighted" formula for special needs funding in Georgia is already being litigated. This alteration will substantially impact the individual education plans for our most vulnerable students, and result in cuts to their services.
  • The 13-14 MFP has no provision to provide for the traditional 2.75% increase to the MFP should the legislature fail to pass an MFP in future years. This could lead to a permanently frozen MFP.
  • The 13-14 MFP will lead to cuts to districts based on skewed testing of Gifted and Talented students, who will now "earn less" for their schools. This not only diminishes funding to school districts, but devalues the hard work of Gifted and Talented students as they strive for excellence.