by Steve Spires
Quality education is key to economic growth, yet Louisiana–like most other states–is still investing less per student than before the Great Recession, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
Total state support per K-12 student was $463 less in 2014 than in 2008, adjusted for inflation. That’s a difference of 8 percent – money that could have gone to pay teacher salaries, buy new textbooks or upgrade classroom technology.
Louisiana is not alone in shortchanging it schools. Of the 44 states compared, Louisiana was one of 31 states that cut support to K-12 education. Six states were excluded because of insufficient data. The states that cut the deepest were Arizona, Alabama and Idaho. On the other end, the three states that increased K-12 support the most were North Dakota, Illinois and Alaska. Louisiana fell in the middle of the pack.
In Louisiana, responsibility for funding K-12 education is split between and the state and local authorities. As state support has withered, local support increased an average of $140 per student. Even with the increase, overall state and local funding fell $322 per student, a drop of 3 percent.
The largest source of funding for K-12 education in Louisiana is the state Minimum Foundation Program (MFP). For the school year that ends in 2016, MFP funding is $72 lower per student than in 2008. But the good news is that Louisiana is starting to reinvest in its public schools. Last year, MFP funding increased by $59 per student. For most of the last eight years, base MFP funding has been frozen.
On top of state and local funding, the federal government contributes about 13 percent of total K-12 support in Louisiana. But with big budget cuts in Washington, federal education grants to states have seen deep cuts as well. Between 2008 and 2014, federal support per Louisiana student fell $607–about 28 percent.