The debate over school funding came to a head Tuesday, when the House Education committee voted to change the K-12 budget proposal backed by Governor John Bel Edwards.
The disagreement comes down to how much money the state should spend on each public school student next year. $1,000 teacher pay raises, on the other hand, have a strong backing.
“We’re in support of the teacher pay raise. We wish it was more,” said Representative Rick Edmonds (R-Baton Rouge).
But Edmonds and other GOP members on the committee oppose Governor Edwards’ proposal that the state spend $39 million more on K-12 students next year, an increase of less than 1.5%.
They’d rather see that money go to other priorities, like early childhood education.
Both the teacher pay raise and the extra $39 million in student funding are included in the Minimum Foundation Program, or MFP, a formula used to determine how much money the state spends on K-12 education.
The final figure is determined by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, not the Legislature.
Chair of th Education committee, Representative Nancy Landry (R-Lafayette) moved to have the state board change the proposal; keep the teacher pay raise, but remove the $39 million increase to student funding.
“I’m prepared today to request that they reduce it to zero,” explained Landry.
The move got the support of Republicans on the committe, but drew opposition from Democrats.
Larry Carter, President of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, warned committee members these are dollars schools need for items like supplies and classroom improvements. Without the funding, he says the burden falls on teachers.
“They’ll have to spend more of their personal hard-earned dollars on school supplies for their students. They’ll have to spend more time figuring out how to teach without an adequate curriculum or working computers."
The MFP now heads back to the state education board, who will reconsider the proposal over the next couple of weeks.