Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

Posted by: Tim Mathis

Last week, the Jindal administration announced that it plans to reallocate $147 million in federal funds from the Education Jobs Fund Program (called EduJobs) to offset state budget cuts, including $68 million in cuts to higher education. In August, the federal government signed a $10 billion program for states to create and maintain “educational and related services for early childhood, elementary, and secondary education.” It was to be made available for the 2010-2011 school year. Louisiana officials applied for the federal money at the beginning of September, and planned on distributing funds to local school districts based on their share of funds in the Millennium Foundation Program (MFP).

A district must use its funds only for compensation and benefits and other expenses, such as support services, necessary to retain existing employees, to recall or rehire former employees, and to hire new employees, in order to provide early childhood, elementary, or secondary educational and related services. The MFP funding is specifically designed to address the problem of equity by calculating payments based on the number of students that are at-risk, considered special-education, enrolled in districts with relatively small student populations, and those pursuing a technical education.

Such dubious financial wrangling with education dollars pits sectors against one another and will only end up as a zero-sum game for Louisiana. Not only is the legality of this move questionable, it acts as a temporary fix to the problem of funding higher education at the expense of elementary and secondary education. While the state will continue to trail other states in educational quality, the real losers are the thousands of students who attend schools in economically disadvantaged communities across the state.