Breaking with Gov. Bobby Jindal, the state Department of Education will recommend that state aid for public schools increase by $36 million, officials said Wednesday.
The proposal will be reviewed by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which has to submit its request to the Legislature by April 3.
BESE meets on Thursday and Friday.
State Superintendent of Education John White told reporters that while most BESE members appear inclined to back the request, they know lawmakers may conclude the state cannot afford it amid a $1.6 billion shortfall to keep spending at current levels.
“This is one step on a long process that will play out over the next several months,” White said.
The Legislature can only approve or reject BESE’s request but cannot change it.
The session begins on April 13.
Last week, Jindal recommended a virtual freeze in state school aid, which goes through a formula called the Minimum Foundation Program.
It would be the sixth such freeze in the past eight years.
A task force earlier recommended a $75 million increase in the key source of dollars for about 720,000 public school students statewide.
That request represents a 2.75 percent increase, which for years was the standard boost that public schools could expect.
The $36 million would be a 1.375 percent increase.
White said the boost would protect against a drop in teacher pay approved by the Legislature in 2013.
Under the proposal, any school district not planning to sustain that increase would be required to do so.
While amounts varied, those increases averaged just under $600.
The agency is also recommending $8 million in new dollars for students with disabilities and students taking part in dual enrollment — high school and college courses — or often expensive career education classes.
Both were endorsed by the task force.
Of that amount, $5.4 million would be used to cover costs of up to $30,000 per year for students with significant intellectual or emotional impairments.
“Last year the applications exceeded the amount of funding,” White said.
The only new dollars that Jindal recommended is $34 million to handle additional students enrolled in public schools.
White said BESE’s request may be shelved by the Legislature and spark a second request, which has happened often in recent years.
In a prepared statement, Jindal said that despite making cuts in other state services, the MFP has been fully funded each year of his administration and the number of failing schools has been cut in half.
“If additional funding is available in the budget we absolutely support further increases,” he said.
Debbie Meaux, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators and a member of the task force that recommended a $75 million hike for public schools, said BESE should ask for the dollars that schools need.
“We are extremely disappointed,” Meaux said of the department’s recommendation.
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