LFT reacts to adoption of state budget

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(Baton Rouge - June 6, 2013) After a four-year drought, educators are pleased that the legislature is including a 2.75% inflation factor – about $69 million – in the education budget for 2013-14, according to Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan.

Inclusion of the growth factor is major news for public education this year. For the past four years, the failure to recognize the need for increased funding has cost public school children hundreds of millions in lost revenues. At the same time, costs have escalated and funding for programs that assist student achievement has been cut.

“Dedicating one-half of the growth factor to a stipend for certificated personnel not subject to COMPASS is a step in the right direction for teachers who have struggled to improve academic achievement in deteriorating teaching and learning conditions,” said LFT President Steve Monaghan

The money will be distributed to all teachers equally as a one-time stipend that will not be part of the teacher salary schedules adopted by school districts.

While that money cannot be included in the Minimum Foundation Program this year, the LFT is encouraged that Gov. Bobby Jindal has pledged to memorialize the growth factor in the education formula to be written in 2014-15, Monaghan said.

“We are hopeful that school boards across the state will consider using a portion of the increase to fund a stipend for the non-certificated education employees who have not seen a pay raise, despite their dedication to the children of Louisiana,” he added.

Serious challenges remain for supporters of public education. The state has increased funding for tuition for vouchers at private and religious schools, even though there is no research showing that those schools outperform their public counterparts. In fact, there is a wealth of evidence that many voucher schools lack appropriate curricula, staff and facilities to provide an excellent education for children.

“In the months and years to come,” Monaghan said, “the state needs to take a hard look at this new entitlement program. The question that needs to be asked is: are vouchers truly in the interest of children?”

It would be inappropriate to celebrate the increase in K-12 funding without mentioning that higher education has also suffered the loss of nearly half a billion dollars over the past few years, Monaghan said. The state’s only solution to fill that gap has been an increase in student tuition and fees. Even that has not been enough to stanch the bleeding of faculty and programs from our colleges and universities.

“There is no doubt that this year’s budget reflects a welcome turn from the ill-advised adventures of the past few years,” Monaghan said. “Even so, we still have a long way to go before we can claim that Louisiana is on the right path toward a brighter future.

“The 2013 session provides some needed hope that we are emerging from a dark tunnel,” he concluded. “However, a world of questions must still be answered, and we are still faced with innumerable challenges.”