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Louisiana school board asks lawmakers for larger K-12 boost

1 year 3 months 2 weeks ago Wednesday, March 10 2021 Mar 10, 2021 March 10, 2021 6:17 AM March 10, 2021 in News
Source: Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s top school board was expected to send state lawmakers a nearly $4 billion public school financing proposal Wednesday that would double the spending increase sought by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

The K-12 school funding formula offered by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for the 2021-22 school year would boost spending by more than $80 million. It serves as the starting point for negotiations with the Louisiana Legislature.

The proposal would steer $40 million more to school districts for their discretionary use in the budget year starting July 1. The other $40 million would cover pay raises of $400 for teachers and administrators and $200 for school support staff such as cafeteria workers and bus drivers. Another $2 million increase would pay for $2,000 stipends for teachers who provide teacher mentoring services.

In his budget proposal to lawmakers, Edwards recommended the $40 million for pay raises but not the other increases.

Neither proposal from the board or the Democratic governor was warmly received by teacher organizations, which sought significantly larger pay raises because Louisiana remains well behind the Southern average for its education salaries.

The Edwards administration has said that, while it wants to do more, Louisiana continues to grapple with the economic impacts of the coronavirus outbreak and state tax collections haven’t fully rebounded from the pandemic’s damage.

Plus, schools are receiving hefty sums of federal coronavirus aid outside of the state’s financing formula. They received $287 million from Congress in spring 2020 and more than $1 billion from a congressional aid package approved in December, much of it still unspent.

Meanwhile, Louisiana’s schools could be in line for billions more in additional federal assistance under legislation nearing final passage in Congress.

The education board’s financial committee approved the $80 million increase to the financing formula without objection. It still requires a final vote from board members Wednesday, but the recommendation isn’t expected to change because a majority of members attended Tuesday’s committee hearing and backed the proposal.

Lawmakers can reject or approve the formula submitted by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, but they cannot change it. If the education board and lawmakers don’t agree on a new financing formula, the state continues to use the formula already on the books.

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