The Senate Education Committee took testimony on the MFP Thursday, and ended up rejecting the formula for funding public schools.
The formula included $150-million in new spending: for a growing number of students, for career education and for kids with special needs. On a conference call following the committee meeting, state Superintendent John White said he’s not worried about students losing out, despite the formula being turned away. That’s because House Appropriations already added the extra money to HB 1, the next state budget.
“House Bill 1 has a placeholder for a hundred-and-50 million additional dollars,” White told reporters via phone.
Part of that $150-million is the constitutionally-mandated 2.75% inflation factor. But the MFP also includes a clause saying that increase would automatically kick in each time legislators don not approve future formulas. That clause was the problem for Senate Education chairman Conrad Appel.
"I have a philosophical problem--as I've expressed a few times today--with the extension, the multiplier, for future years," Appel said, before making the motion to defer the resolution on the MFP.
White said since the clause is merely affirming what the state constitution requires, it appears Appel’s objection to the multiplier is simply “financial politics”.
“The Legislature is interested in having more control over the entirety of the state’s financial system,” White stated.
The formula now returns to BESE for a rewrite, since state law says lawmakers can only vote up or down on the entire MFP as presented. They are not permitted to make changes to the formula themselves.
With just a month left in the session, the pressure is on. If a new MFP is not approved by the time the legislature adjourns, then the formula reverts to a previous version. The question then becomes, which version?
School boards are suing the state Department of Education over that very question. After the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled the 2012-2013 MFP was unconstitutional--both because it paid for vouchers and because of the mechanics of the full House vote on the formula--school districts asked the state to ante-up the funds that had been diverted for vouchers. When those requests fell on deaf ears, the school boards sued—also challenging the MFP approval process for 2011. The case is set to be heard in July.