State needs to scrap the MFP, school official says5

The state’s complex method for aiding public schools should be scrapped, the former president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents said Monday.

“It’s time we face reality,” said Michael Faulk, who is superintendent of the Central school system. “This formula has outlived its usefulness.”

Faulk made his comments during the third meeting of a task force set up to tweak, but not abolish, the state’s system for funding public schools, the Minimum Foundation Program.

He and others on the panel said replacing today’s school aid system would take far more time than the two gatherings left on the task force’s schedule.

“That’s not something you can take care of in one or two more meetings,” Faulk said.

State Superintendent of Education John White, who is on the task force, called Faulk’s comment bold.

“If he is calling for a system that is easier to explain and can be understood by parents and taxpayers then I am in agreement,” White said later.

The state is sending $3.5 billion through the MFP this year in state and local dollars to support about 700,000 public school students.

How the allocation method works has long baffled state lawmakers and laymen.

“It’s a big math problem is what it is,” said Beth Scioneaux, deputy superintendent of finance, and one of the few officials in state government who understands how the MFP works.

The task force’s four-hour meeting Monday pointed up some of the complexities.

Part of the discussion focused on a section of the MFP that links state aid for public schools to local revenue.

Critics contend that, in some cases, increases in local school aid can spark cuts in state aid, which then sparks criticism from local voters.

White said he has tried to explain that part of the formula to state legislators with little success. “Explaining the formula is quite difficult,” he said.

The MFP was overhauled about 20 years ago after a lengthy study that included Faulk.

“The education landscape has changed,” he said during a break in the meeting.

Task force Chairman Jay Guillot, a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said any in-depth study of the MFP would require much more time than has been alloted for his panel.

It is supposed to finalize its recommendations to BESE in December.

“I don’t think we should scrap the MFP,” Guillot said after the meeting. “That would take really careful study, see what’s prudent and not prudent.”

He added, “It would take a lot of study to make sure that is the right direction to go. It certainly has merit to study it.”

Task force member Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association , said any overhaul of the MFP would require a study on what it costs to educate a student, which he said has not been done since the mid-1990s.

Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, and others said any review of public school funding should include some or all of the task force to avoid having a state panel start over on the issue.