A task force Tuesday recommended a $75 million increase in state aid for public schools next year, but made it contingent on Louisiana’s financial outlook.
The recommendation goes to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which makes its request to the Legislature in March.
State legislators can then accept or reject the request, but cannot change it.
The $75 million increase, which represents a 2.75 percent boost that schools used to routinely get in flusher times, was approved by the Minimum Foundation Program Task Force. The MFP is the formula used to allocate dollars to public schools.
The vote was 17-2 with teachers union leaders, the Louisiana School Boards Association, superintendents and others backing the request.
The committee urged BESE to make the request but said the panel should do so only after conferring with legislators and others on the availability of funds.
Most of the arguments focused on whether the task force should simply request what it thinks public schools need or take note of state financial problems.
State services face a shortfall of about $1.4 billion for the financial year that begins on July 1 if spending levels are kept at current levels.
The 2015 legislative session starts on April 13.
Debra Schum, president of the Louisiana Association of Principals and a task force member, said policymakers need to hear what students need.
“We do a disservice if we don’t share with legislators what the actual cost of education is,” said Schum, a former principal.
But Senate Education Committee Chairman Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, one of two “no” votes on the panel, said what BESE requests is solely for that board to decide.
“Who can point out the numbers to justify the 2.75 percent?” Appel asked.
Public schools are still grappling with the impact of five years of virtual freezes in state aid amid widespread budget problems for state services. Superintendents and others complained that, without any boost in state aid, schools suffered amid rising costs for supplies, retirement and health care.
Earlier this year, the Legislature approved a $3.6 billion spending plan for public schools, including about $70 million to continue teacher pay bonuses or stipends that lawmakers approved in 2013.
The money this year, unlike last year, was added to the MFP formula.
However, lawmakers rejected an initial BESE request because Appel and other critics said it would mandate 2.75 percent funding increases in future years even if legislators failed to agree on a plan.
The task force has met for months this year and last to consider ways to improve funding.
However, any major changes would only be recommended after a yearlong study, which it also recommended to BESE on Tuesday.
That review would be presented to Louisiana’s new governor and Legislature in January 2016.
Follow Will Sentell on Twitter @WillSentell. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.