Louisiana’s top school board Thursday approved a standstill funding request for public schools.
The plan technically only cleared a committee of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, but all 11 BESE members were present.
Final approval is expected Friday.
The funding request totals $3.7 billion and would provide basic state aid for public schools for the 2016-17 school year.
It will be reviewed by the Legislature during the regular session that begins March 14.
Lawmakers can approve or reject the request but cannot change it.
State Superintendent of Education John White said even a standstill request may trigger resistance in the Legislature amid state budget problems.
Lawmakers are in a special session until March 9 to grapple with a $900 million shortfall by June 30.
State services face another $2 billion shortfall for the financial year that begins July 1.
White said BESE may have to tackle the funding request again in upcoming months if it is returned by the Legislature.
“This is just a step in a very, very long process,” he told the panel.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has said he supports the request and that it is the best public education can expect amid state financial troubles.
Some educators have said state aid for public schools, which goes through a formula called the Minimum Foundation Program, may face outright reductions this year for the first time in decades.
Education groups that often urge BESE to seek more dollars from the Legislature than it does backed this year’s no-growth request.
“We all understand the dire straits of our state finances,” said Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators, one of the state’s two teachers unions.
The proposal also was backed by the Louisiana School Boards Association and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers — both Edwards allies — as well as the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents and the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools.
BESE’s request includes $44 million for public schools that is not in this year’s MFP.
However, those dollars were sent to schools for the current year through separate legislation approved in 2015.
“That is not a net increase for school systems,” White said of the latest request.
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