State budget cuts gut public education funding

Despite growing evidence that education is the key to a strong economy, a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) finds that budget cuts during the Great Recession have reduced states’ ability to invest in K-12 education. While Louisiana fared better than some states, per-student spending between FY08 and FY14 dropped more than 4 percent when adjusted for inflation. That’s equivalent to $212 less in state support for each student.

Louisiana spends $212 less per k-12 student than before the recession.

The finding is hardly surprising, as state policymakers have failed to fully fund the K-12 Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) for five straight years. While overall funding has gone up due to enrollment growth, per-student funding has been frozen since 2008, resulting in $560 less in basic support for each student. Frozen funding means larger class sizes, fewer tutoring opportunities and cancelled after school programs.

Five years of frozen state support translates to a loss of $560 per student.

The MFP is Louisiana’s constitutional formula that provides much of the funding for K-12 students (local taxes provide most of the rest). Per-student funding is supposed to grow by a 2.75 percent inflation factor every year to cover the ever-growing cost of everything from textbooks to salaries to gasoline for buses, but recently has failed to keep pace. This year, the Legislature did include a separate appropriation in the budget that is equivalent to a one-year increase, but it is not built into the underlying MFP formula. That means it could turn out to be a one-time bump, when what schools and students need is steady, predictable support.

Investing in education at all levels is crucial for building a 21st century economy that creates high-paying jobs. Unfortunately, Louisiana’s ill-advised commitment to budget cuts undermines that investment.

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