Letter: BESE should increase MFP, but only a start to meeting needs

On Thursday, March 6, members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will vote to finalize a 2.75 percent increase in the Minimum Foundation Program, which provides state funding to school districts.

As leaders of the Jefferson Parish public school system, we wholeheartedly support this increase, which is a necessity as districts face an increasing burden in retirement contributions due to underfunded state pensions, the need to support and reward our most talented teachers and educators, and the need to upgrade technology to prepare our students for learning in a digital environment.

The Jefferson Parish public school system has made strong gains in student achievement in the past two years, despite making tough budgetary cuts in 2011 to avoid overspending. We were able to make smart choices and direct more resources to classrooms, and our results show that we are on the right path: our district has improved from a D-rated district in 2011 to a B-rated one in 2013. This progress demonstrates that our teachers, principals, families, and community members are committed to providing an excellent education for all Jefferson Parish students.

Based on preliminary projections, the proposed increase in MFP will not be enough to cover increased benefit costs for our employees, let alone provide funding for technology upgrades or salary increases for our most effective teachers. But the increase of 2.75 percent in MFP is a start, and one that is necessary for Jefferson Parish — and for all districts throughout Louisiana — to ensure that our children’s educational needs are met.

James Meza Jr.

superintendent, Jefferson Parish public school system

Mike Delesdernier

president, Jefferson Parish School Board