School Voucher Funding Up In The Air
Hundreds of parents, children, teachers and administrators rallied on the steps of the Capitol calling on lawmakers to find a new way to fund private school vouchers, chanting "You promised/ to put kids first."
The old way to fund vouchers was ruled unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court last week because it routed money through a formula -- called the MFP -- that is dedicated to public schools.
While the rally was happening on the capitol steps, the Senate Education Committee decided to send the proposed MFP for next year back to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Chairman Conrad Appel said the wording, which still included vouchers, wouldn’t pass legal muster.
BESE later acknowledged that it sent a draft of the MFP to the legislature by accident. BESE asked the committee to consider instead the version it had actually approved, which severed the voucher provision based on the court ruling.
Gov. Jindal and the state Dept. of Education are appealing to the legislature to add a $45 million line item to the state budget to pay for vouchers outside the MFP next year (the department says the allocation for public schools in the MFP could be reduced by $45 million and that there would be no net cost to the state to due to continuing the voucher program). Superintendent John White said in a conference call that these item may signal a need to revamp education budgeting.
“We have thousands of parents asking for things not in the MFP," said White. "In the long run, we’ll have to find a way to fund education differently in this state.”
Governor Bobby Jindal has said if vouchers aren’t funded by the end of the session, he’ll call lawmakers back into a special session.