Formula change will chop school budget
By: JEAN L. KAESS
Because of new inclusions in the Minimum Foundation Program funding approved by the state’s top education board Monday, the St. Mary Parish School Board will lose nearly $2.7 million in funding for the 2012-13 school year.
The underlying philosophy of the new formula seems to be that the money to educate a child should follow the child to whatever school he or she attends, whether that is a public school, charter school or a specialized school like the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts.
Previously, education of students at charter schools was funded outside of the MFP formula.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration wants to move that inside the formula, and if lawmakers agree to expand the voucher program statewide, to pay for the whole program through the annual school spending plan.
If approved by lawmakers, it would keep the program safe from budget cuts because lawmakers can’t remove or change individual items in the formula.
The MFP divvies up dollars to districts based on the number and type of students they have and the individual districts’ wealth.
Included in the BESE board-supported spending plan is money for a voucher program that would use state tax dollars to send students to private schools around the state, for college tuition grants for students who graduate from high school early and for expanded online programs and other non-traditional schools.
Many of these initiatives pushed by Jindal would require legislative approval before they could be enacted.
St. Mary Superintendent Donald Aguillard explained the district’s losses this morning.
“The adopted MFP resolution changed the way Type 2 Charter Schools are funded. The adopted resolution reads, ‘Any school authorized as a Type 2 Charter School approved by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education shall annually be appropriated funds as determined by applying the formula contained in R.S. 17:3995, except that the local share allocation will be funded with a transfer of the MFP monthly amount representing the local share allocation from the city, parish, or local public school board in which the attending student resides. The city, parish, or local school board that has local taxing authority shall provide the local support for the students.’
“St. Mary Parish has a long established Legacy Type II Charter School: Glencoe Charter School. Legacy Type 2 Charter Schools were originally funded totally by the state outside of the MFP formula. The local share of their funding must now be provided by the St. Mary Parish School Board.
“This BESE change in the way Type II Charter Schools are funded produced a negative $1,185,000 financial hit to our 2012-13 MFP allocation. The formula is further adjusted by ‘local effort’ as measured by property and sales tax collections. St. Mary reported increased local effort resulting in a decline of approximately $800,000 in MFP funding.
“Additionally the State now is requiring school districts to provide the local share of funding for any parish students attending educational programs outside of the district (such as) Virtual Type 2 Charters, Office of Juvenile Justice, LSMSA, and the Special School District (SSD). This impact produced an approximate $100,000 hit to our allocation. We also reported about 100 fewer students resulting in a loss of $500,000.
“I am already working with senior staff to begin evaluating options to deal with the loss of nearly $2,700,000 of state funding for our 2012-13 school year. The challenge remains to provide the highest quality instructional program while adjusting to a dramatic decrease in State funding through the MFP funding mechanism.”
The parish’s per student MFP allocation for 2011-12 is $5,245. Under the current plan, funding for 2012-13 will decline to $5,074 per student.
It should be noted that the St. Mary Parish School Board has no jurisdiction over Glencoe Charter School. Aguillard said the school will not lose any funding under the current program.
In 2008-09, the most recent data available from the state, the public school district expended $4,041 per student from local sources. That is in addition to the state and federal funds each school district receives. Total expenditures per student in that year were $10,717.
Parish Chief Financial Officer Alton Perry reports that local effort for 2008-09 was $3,342, $3,639 for 2009-10 and $3,761 for 2010-11.
Under the plan up for legislative approval, MFP funding will remain flat for the fourth straight year, provided the legislature approves the new plan, which the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted 7-2 to approve.
With the board’s backing of the spending plan, the debate shifts to state lawmakers, who can only approve or reject the formula submitted by the state board. Lawmakers cannot change the spending plan.
Several of the new board members asked to delay the vote for a week so they could have more time to study the 27-page formula and dozens of pages of supporting documents. That attempt failed to gain enough support.
Voting for the formula Monday were BESE members Chas Roemer, Holly Boffy, Connie Bradford, Jim Garvey, Jay Guillot, Walter Lee and President Penny Dastugue. Voting against it were Lottie Beebe and Carolyn Hill. Board member Kira Orange Jones abstained.