Advocate staff photo by BRAD BOWIE -- Louisiana State Superintendent of Education John White speaks in the cafeteria of the W.D. & Mary Baker Smith Career Center in October 2014. White was visiting schools around Lafayette Parish as part of his Louisiana Believes tour.

Going against Gov. Bobby Jindal, a key Louisiana House panel Tuesday approved legislation that would boost state aid for public schools by nearly $85 million.

The measure includes $36 million that would increase spending per student, which Jindal did not include in his proposed operating budget.

The plan, House Concurrent Resolution 18, easily cleared the House Appropriations Committee and next faces action in the full House.

The proposal already passed the House Education Committee after it was requested in March by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

State lawmakers can only accept or reject BESE’s request, but cannot change it.

Dollars to fund the increase were also included in the $24 billion operating budget that the House approved last week.

It is awaiting Senate action.

The increase, if it wins final approval, would represent a victory for public schools in a session where a $1.6 billion shortfall to keep spending at current levels has been the dominant topic.

Before the session began on April 13, there was speculation that public schools could face an outright cut in state aid, not just its sixth consecutive freeze.

The resolution includes $36 million in new dollars that go through the $3.7 billion Minimum Foundation Program.

The MFP is the key funding source for about 720,000 public school students statewide.

Another $40 million would help cover costs for about 5,000 new students, a sign of recent increases in Louisiana’s public school enrollment.

Another $8 million would boost state aid for students with disabilities and students taking part in dual enrollment — high school and college courses — or often-costly career education courses.

State Superintendent of Education John White noted that the $36 million increase in MFP dollars would be half of what used to be a traditional, 2.75 percent increase for public schools during flusher budget times.

“I appreciate the House of Representatives finding space in the budget for supporting public schools,” White said after the meeting. “The obligations for public school systems are going up, and our kids need the help of taxpayers to maintain the quality of education.”

The spending plan has been touted as a way to preserve teacher pay raises that were approved by the Legislature in 2013.

Any school district not planning to sustain that hike would be required to do so under the legislation.

Those increases averaged just less than $600 per year.

The legislation is sponsored by House Education Committee Chairman Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge.

It was backed by the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, Louisiana Association of Educators and the Louisiana School Boards Association.

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