Filed Under:  Education, News, State

Court ruling against vouchers means more money for Orleans Parish schools

3rd June 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Jessica Williams
http://thelensnola.org

The Louisiana Supreme Court’s May 7 ruling against Louisiana’s method of funding private-school vouchers will cost the state $29 million, but it will put more money into local schools.

The ruling was two-fold: Judges said that the state could not divert per-pupil funding to private schools. They also said lawmakers had improperly approved this school year’s education funding formula, called the Minimum Foundation Program.

The second part of that ruling meant that the state had to revert to the 2011-12 school funding formula. Under that formula, the state solely pays for special schools such as the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, rather than sharing that burden with school districts. The cost to the state: about $29 million, according to State Superin­tendent of Education John White.

The benefit to local schools: $79 more per student compared to the state’s initial allocation for the school year.

The change more than makes up for a cut in funding that hit schools in March. That’s when state and local education officials revealed that the local per-pupil allocation would be $181 less than originally budgeted due to an unexpected increase in the total number of New Orleans students. Educators disagreed on whether the reason was an overall rise in the number of students in Orleans Parish or a rise in the number of students using vouchers and the cost of each voucher.

Either way, the consensus was that local schools would have less to spend on each student. Orleans Parish School Board schools that have had stagnant enrollment over the past few years would be hit particularly hard.

But with the switch to the old formula – which shifted the burden for special schools to the state and didn’t fund the voucher program – those schools will now see a $260 per-student boost in local, per-pupil funding, district officials said.

“The good news is that the money that was lost two months ago has been found,” said Stan Smith, Orleans Parish School Board’s interim superintendent, at a Tuesday board meeting. “For our charter schools and our direct-run schools, it’s not having the impact that was anticipated.”

Budget director Wayne Delarge said last week that schools’ local share is being increased to $4,189 per student. It originally was set at $4,110; in March it was cut to $3,929. However, the state’s per-pupil funding has now been decreased slightly due to the increased availability of local funding.

The state’s per-pupil funding — which is about the same as the local share — decreased because the state doles out less cash to districts when their local revenues are higher, state education department spokesman Barry Landry said.

Delarge said the Orleans Parish School Board would see the increase reflected in its May payment. Though he couldn’t speak for the Recovery School District, he said, “I assume the state is going to do the same for theirs.”

RSD spokeswoman Zoey Reed said in March that the state would dole out increases or decreases to schools as necessary.

The above article was reported by The Lens, an independent, nonprofit news site in New Orleans, and was reprinted with permission in the June 3, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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