School aid plans clears final hurdle

A $3.6 billion spending plan for public schools cleared its final legislative hurdle Friday when the Louisiana House approved it.

The vote was 95-2.

The aid package — called the Minimum Foundation Program — is the key source of funding for about 700,000 public school students.

The action means the state will have a new school aid plan for the first time since 2011.

The MFP approved in 2012 was struck down by the state Supreme Court.

The Legislature was unable to agree on a plan last year.

Despite the size of the spending plan, the measure, Senate Concurrent Resolution 55, sparked only a few questions.

The MFP includes about $70 million to continue teacher pay bonuses or stipends that the Legislature approved last year.

However, this time, the money will be added to the formula.

State Rep. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond, who handled the bill, said base funding per pupil will rise from $3,855 to $3,961.

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s aides say that, with local and other dollars included, the base will be $5,236.

The plan also includes several changes recommended by a task force that spent months studying school aid last year.

The changes include $14.5 million in new aid to help students with profound disabilities, a boost in support for the most expensive career education classes and new assistance for dual enrollment classes.

Broadwater said that in some cases, student disabilities spark costs of up to $50,000 per year.

State Superintendent of Education John White said in a text message Friday that the MFP was nearly one year in the making “and drew unprecedented levels of collaboration.”

Officials of the Louisiana School Boards Association, one of the groups that backed the measure, advocated for all three changes linked to the $14.5 million during task force meetings.

The plan that won final approval was the second one submitted by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The first one was killed in the Senate Education Committee amid concerns that it would provide automatic, 2.75 percent funding increases even if lawmakers fail to agree on a new one.

No such automatic increase was included in the final version.

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