Vote coming on school funding

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 8, 2014

By Monique Roth

LAPLACE – The Louisiana Department of Education recently released the proposed formula for the 2014-2015 Minimum Foundation Program. The year the formula follows all MFP Task Force recommendations.

Each year, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education must determine a minimum cost of educating public school students in Louisiana, known as the MFP, and develop a formula to distribute funding to public schools.

BESE was scheduled to present the proposed MFP to the Louisiana Legislature this week, but decided to defer action until March 12. The deadline for submission to the Legislature is March 15. Once BESE’s recommendation is presented and final, the Legislature will vote on its approval for this year’s budget.

Local school boards and district superintendents requested the delay to have additional time to review new information related to the formula.

“We want to allow time for school districts to consider the impact of any new information that they receive related to the MFP,” said Chas Roemer, BESE president.

Recommended additions to this year’s proposed MFP formula include a 2.75 percent increase in funding statewide, additional state funds for career education courses, state funding for districts to provide early college and other coursework outside of high schools and an increase in state funding for students whose disabilities require costly services. Each of these provisions results from the recommendations from the MFP Task Force, commissioned by BESE one year ago.

“This proposed MFP will serve to address the needs of our schools and districts, including special education and career education,” said State Superintendent John White. “The formula for the 2014-2015 school year was carefully crafted after months of thoughtful consideration from education stakeholders and public comment.”

Over six months, the MFP Task Force gathered feedback from the public concerning the additions to the formula. The MFP Task Force, comprised of legislators, school board members, superintendents, teachers, parents, and community and education organizations, was created to provide guidance on improving the formula to most equitably and effectively fund schools and students.

“I’m pleased the DOE and BESE agreed to work with a group that reflected all stakeholders,” said St. John the Baptist Parish Superintendent Kevin George. “It appears that the Task Force has brought forth an excellent plan that requires minimum adjustments by BESE. With increased funding and flexibility to districts, I am satisfied with the end product of the Task Force.”

Jim Melohn, chief financial officer of St. Charles Parish schools, is a Task Force member and said working on the Task Force this year was a great process. He said Task Force members realized early on that not all funding issues would be able to be resolved at once, and that he is confident this year’s MFP will be fair and beneficial to schools.