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School funding short $42M

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By The Associated Press

BATON ROUGE — The state underestimated the number of public school students this year, leaving the funding formula for school districts short an estimated $42 million and adding to the financial problems facing the Jindal administration and lawmakers.

The Louisiana Department of Education has notified Gov. Bobby Jindal of the shortfall. Lawmakers and the governor’s office will need to find the money to fill the gap before the 2010-11 fiscal year ends June 30.

Rene Greer, a spokeswoman for the education department, said 9,000 more students were in state public schools on Oct. 1 than had been included in the budget estimates. The formula approved by lawmakers had been based on 658,000 students statewide.

“We are analyzing the data at this time to determine where the growth occurred,” Beth Scioneaux, deputy superintendent of the education department’s finance office, said in an e-mail Monday. She said she’d have more information later this week.

The $3.3 billion public school funding formula, called the Minimum Foundation Program, or MFP, divvies up dollars to school districts based on the number and type of students they have and the individual districts’ wealth.

A portion of the formula includes a flat amount per student paid to the district, so if the student population is larger than expected, it creates a gap that must be filled.

It’s not uncommon for the numbers to be adjusted and a midyear shortfall to emerge, and the governor’s budget office played down the short-term worries of an education budget deficit.

“With $3.3 billion budgeted to cover the entire fiscal year, there is no immediate problem facing the MFP. Student counts will be recalculated again in February, and we expect the figures to change again,” Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, the governor’s top budget analyst, said in a statement Monday.

The shortfalls are routinely addressed in the regular legislative session by shifting around available dollars, making trims to some areas of spending and boosting others. But with hefty budget problems looming, the school district formula shortfall is more problematic this year.

Jindal already stripped $107 million in state spending earlier this year to close a budget deficit left over from the 2009-10 fiscal year.

Meanwhile, the administration and lawmakers are bracing for a $1.5 billion shortfall for the 2011-12 fiscal year starting July 1 and an outstanding lawsuit that could add a $200 million shortfall. Agencies are also still coping with a series of budget cuts over the last two years.

Written by demon53

November 16, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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