The resolution of Louisiana's latest budget crisis spared two key education programs that earlier faced drastic cuts, officials said Monday.
The state's main prekindergarten program for children from low-income families will remain intact, state Superintendent of Education John White said.
Salary supplements for Catholic and other non-public schools will also remain largely unchanged.
The prekindergarten program, called LA4, is used by about 16,000 children and offers full-day classes.
During an earlier version of the state budget, White told local superintendents that the state Department of Education faced a 24 percent cut in state aid, which he said could result in a reduction of up to 20 percent for LA4.
Louisiana's pre-kindergarten program for children from low-income families would suffer its first ever reduction under the budget that won fin…
But the Legislature adjourned its third special session of the year Sunday night with a revised budget, and agreement on a revamped state sales tax package that paved the way for nearly $500 million more in state funds.
"The impact of the Legislature's compromise is to preserve all LA4 and private school prekindergarten seats that had been planned for this year," White said in an interview.
"The even better thing, however, is we can begin to look forward to years in the future and the possibility of the state making a more significant investment in quality early childhood programs," he said.
Under the plan that won final approval Sunday, the sales tax rate will go from 5 percent to 4.45 percent on July 1.
Without action, 1 cent would have been dropped, which would have had a major impact on state aid for public schools, higher education and other services.
Also spared is a program that helps finance lunches for Catholic and other non-public school students.
Lunches for Catholic and other non-public school students are being threatened because the Louisiana House-passed budget would slice state aid…
It is called lunch salary supplements and earlier faced reductions of more than 50 percent, setting off alarms among Catholic school leaders and efforts at the State Capitol to restore the funding.
The supplements help finance cafeteria operations, including the costs of meals.
Rob Tasman, executive director of the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops and its sister group, Citizens for Educational Choice, said Monday the assistance will be essentially unchanged.
Tasman said the aid was preserved when officials agreed to a reduction of about $700,000 to another program that helps officials of non-public schools pay for mandates from the state Department of Education.
"We did okay all things considered," he said. "We kind of took cuts to required services to be able to ensure salary supplements so the meals would be served and the kids fed."
Current state aid for salary supplements is about $7.5 million.
During an earlier version of the budget that assistance would have been trimmed to $3.5 million.
State aid for mandated costs will be reduced from $8.3 million to $7.5 million.
Assistance for both programs has been considerably higher in the past.
About 700,000 students attend public schools and around 115,000 go to the state's 510 approved non-public schools.
Basic state aid for public schools will be unchanged for the 2018-19 school year under a spending plan approved during the 2018 regular legislative session.
The Legislature also fully funded – $41.9 million – the program that allows certain public school students to attend private schools at state expense – vouchers.