Thursday, February 17, 2011

Governor’s Plan to Freeze School Aid Is Wrong Approach to Filling State Budget Shortfalls

Louisiana educators are upset with Governor Jindal’s plan to recommend a third consecutive freeze in state aid for public schools.

“We think it’s time the governor dealt with state financing in a responsible way,” says Louisiana Association of Educators President Joyce Haynes. “The three year freeze will cost Louisiana’s public schools close to $200 million in recurring revenues.”

Teachers, parents and community members need Penny Dastugue and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to step up to the plate, too.

“The BESE board has one of two options. They can continue to be instruments of the governor or they can be representatives of the people,” says Haynes.

The BESE board has the authority to do what’s right for the public school students and the communities which depend upon their decision making. BESE, with a mixture of governor appointees and elected members, should have the courage to represent public schools and stand up to the governor.

“Public school students don’t have the luxury to wait on the governor,” says Haynes. “They need action and consideration now!”

This isn’t the first time Governor Jindal has slighted public school funding. In December of 2010, he made a $42 million error in the MFP when he failed to account for increases in student population.
He also shorted the state’s K-12 and higher education systems another $68 million when he redirected the Federal Education Jobs grant. To date, districts still have not received the $79 million residue from the $147 million originally approved for Louisiana K-12 public schools.

“Our state’s budget is hurting and we have a governor who continues to give billions of dollars in tax exemptions to big business; paying little attention to the needs of public school children. Enough is enough,” says Haynes.

Earlier this year, Louisiana House Speaker Jim Tucker implicated that legislators will consider suspending some of the $7 billion in tax exemptions as they search for ways to close the $1.6 billion budget hole. LAE is on board with the notion of requesting tax changes – anything to secure the funding of our valuable public services. LAE will ask the Legislature to go further and reduce exemptions by 3 billion dollars.

“We need to spend half of the money that the state could receive as a result of these exemptions and properly fund such governmental services as public schools, both Pre-K-12 and our public higher education institutions, social services and public safety,” says Haynes.

We look forward to Governor Jindal presenting his proposed operating budget during the 2011 regular legislative session. LAE intends to engage their membership and seek a broader coalition for their proposals.

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