Revised school spending plan clears Senate panel

A revamped, $3.6 billion spending plan for public schools won easy approval Thursday in the Senate Education Committee.

The proposal, Senate Concurrent Resolution 55, next faces action in the Senate Finance Committee, possibly Friday.

An earlier version was rejected by the education panel last month.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, said that the initial proposal would have allowed for automatic hikes in state school spending even in years when the Legislature failed to agree on a bill.

The revised version took that language out.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which submits the proposal, met on Monday and voted 9-1 to rework the outline.

“That concern has been addressed,” state Superintendent of Education John White told the committee, a reference to Appel’s objection.

State school aid goes through a funding mechanism called the Minimum Foundation Program.

It provides much of the financial support for about 700,000 public school students statewide for the 2014-15 school year.

The proposed spending plan includes $69 million in new aid for public schools, which mirrors the amount that the Legislature approved last year after lawmakers were unable to agree on a new MFP.

That financed a wide range of what was described as one-time pay bumps for public school teachers.

The new legislation would require school districts to maintain those raises.

The revamped spending package was backed by officials of the Louisiana School Boards Association and the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents.

Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, said removing the automatic, 2.75 percent increase in annual school aid means that minimum increase may be forgotten in future years.

Monaghan said last year’s funding provided pay bumps for teachers that ranged from $190 to $1,200 and, like this year’s plan, excludes increases for school support workers who are paid about $12,000 per year.

The committee vote was 5-1.

The lone “no” vote was cast by state Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter @WillSentell. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/