A key education group Thursday recommended a $40 million increase in state aid for public schools, the second such endorsement this week.

The proposal breezed through the Superintendents' Advisory Council without debate.

On Tuesday the Minimum Foundation Program Task Force, which includes education leaders and state lawmakers, also called for the Legislature to boost school spending by $40 million, or 1 percent of the current allocation.

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The superintendents, like the MFP Task Force, advise the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

BESE will decide on March 12-13 whether to submit a request for more school money to the Legislature and, if so, how much.

The school aid is used for teachers salaries, textbooks and a wide range of other items.

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The state is spending $3.7 billion for Louisiana's roughly 1,300 public schools for the current school year.

Basic state aid has been frozen for nine of the past 10 years amid recurring state budget problems.

The Legislature began a 17-day special session on Monday to grapple with the state's latest budget crisis – a roughly $1 billion shortfall for state services starting July 1.

How much public schools will get will be decided during the 2018 regular session, which begins March 12.

But whether Gov. John Bel Edwards and the GOP-controlled Legislature can agree on revenue-raising measures in the special session will determine the financial outlook for public schools and other state services.

State Superintendent of Education John White noted that even Senate Education Committee Chairman Blade Morrish, R-Jennings, who backs the $40 million request, said Tuesday he did not know how such a message would be received in the Legislature.

White said he did not know what BESE will do on the funding issue.

Mike Faulk, executive director of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, urged superintendents to seek the increase.

Faulk, former superintendent of the highly-rated Central School District, noted that teacher retirement and health care costs continue to rise as well as expenses linked to student accountability.

He said it was important for superintendents to "let them know that there is a need," a reference to state legislators.

The motion to ask for a $40 million boost in state school aid won approval on a voice vote without dissent.

The governor has recommended a freeze in state school aid.

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Edwards said that budget item was dictated by the looming $1 billion shortfall, and aides have since said he would back an increase if state dollars become available.

The advisory council includes 23 district superintendents from around the state.

Under Edwards' budget proposal, school aid would rise by $2 million strictly to account for new students.

White said enrollment has slowed, including in the Orleans, Jefferson, St. Tammany and St. Charles school districts.

  

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.

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