As its an election year, expect that a number of the legislators now toiling away on their re-election pitches will be talking about education.

It's the way to make Louisiana more prosperous. It's the path toward independence instead of welfare. It's the bridge to the 21st century.

Oops, that last part was taken from President Bill Clinton. And he used it before the 21st century came around.

The sloganeering is symptomatic of what's wrong with the State Capitol these days.

The same politicians extolling education as a priority have presided over a roughly 20 percent decline in state aid to colleges, and are on their way in this session to a freeze on state aid to public schools for the third year in a row.

Times are tough, and there is little reason to criticize the decision to freeze the minimum foundation program, the state aid to local schools. It is at $3.4 billion, up by about $68 million because of some increased enrollment.

The MFP is governed by a complicated formula that takes into account, among other things, the resources local taxpayers put into their schools. So the quickest way to deal with a frozen MFP would be for local school leaders to come up with local tax increases that would provide more money for their schools.

Do not expect politicians at any level to lead that parade. Gutlessness about the costs of public services is endemic in government.

The local systems face rising costs for employee insurance and retirement. This formula is not working for local school districts, said Carnell Washington, of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. The East Baton Rouge Parish system has gone from having a $100 million reserve to a $38 million shortfall, he told legislators.

Those events dont sound like a rousing endorsement of a third year of a frozen MFP. But it's what the legislators have to explain once they go home and face the voters this fall.