BR.ascensionbridge.081821 0016 bf.jpg (copy)

New report pans Louisiana's commitment to public schools.

Louisiana deserves "D's" for its financial support of public schools, how the money is allocated and the state's commitment to education, according to a national report issued Thursday.

The study says the state ranks 34th in the nation in funding schools, spends more on low-poverty school districts than those with financial difficulties and allocates less than the average when it comes to public school spending as a percentage of the state's economy.

It also puts Louisiana with a handful of states, including Florida and Tennessee, that "perform poorly across the board."

"There are vast gaps in overall levels of school funding among states," the report says.

"And most states do not provide higher levels of funding to deliver the extra resources necessary to educate students from low-income families and students in high-poverty schools and districts."

The review, called Making the Grade 2021, was done by the left-leaning Education Law Center, which is based in Newark, N.J. and calls itself the nation's legal defense fund for public education rights.

Danielle Farrie, research director and co-author of the study, said policymakers in Louisiana and elsewhere need to ensure funding levels match the resources of the state and the needs of students. "It is not a random number," Farrie said Thursday.

The study focused on three areas: state and local revenue per pupil adjusted for regional cost differences, spending in school districts relative to student poverty and education spending versus capacity.

The state was given a "D" in each category based on 2018-19 data, the latest available.

It says Louisiana spends $13,668 per student, which is $1,446 below the national average.

Top stories in Baton Rouge in your inbox

Twice daily we'll send you the day's biggest headlines. Sign up today.

The state of New York spends the most in the nation – $26,634 per student – and Arizona is last – $9,717 per child. Twelve states got failing marks for how much they spend on public schools. The national average is $15,114.

Public schools here get most of their money through state aid using a formula called the Minimum Foundation Program, which totals $3.9 billion in the current school year.

The report says Louisiana spends $13,530 per student in low-poverty districts compared to $12,951 per student in districts with lots of poverty.

Louisiana had the second highest rate of poverty among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, trailing only Mississippi.

About two-thirds of the state's roughly 700,000 public school students live in low-income homes.

Only 18 states have "modestly progressive" funding systems, the report said, meaning they spend at least 5% more in high-poverty than low poverty school districts.

Asked about the study state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley said, "As we continue to explore funding, we should be mindful that dollars follow our kids and that parents have access to schools that make sense for their families."

"Educational funding is a critically important issue and a top priority for us now, including 21st-century teacher compensation models to attract and retain the best educators for students," Brumley said.

The report also says the state makes less of an effort to fund schools and has less capacity to do so – $51,514 per person compared to the U.S. average of $56,830.


Email Will Sentell at wsentell@theadvocate.com.