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MFP Gains at a Cost - Monday, June 9, 2008
Listen UP!
MFP Success at Some Cost!
Local public education advocated, again this year, for adequate increase of the MFP to pay for progress toward reaching grade level expectations. The requests were embraced by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education but rejected by the new Jindal Administration and the legislature in favor of a more modest increase of $89.9 million.
In a special meeting held Friday, BESE adopted without objection an MFP simulation that includes $10.4 million (a 1% increase) hike for at-risk students. That raises the factor to 22% with the goal being 40% above the base amount.
Career and technical education programs gained $5 million, while special needs students remained pegged at 150% of the base MFP amount.
Gifted and talented (60%) and Economy of Scale (20%) factors remained unchanged from last year.
The base per pupil amount (level 1) increased from $3,752 per student to $3,855 which added $55 million to the MFP. That amounts to a 2.75% increase (the growth factor).
The level two factor rose from 33% to 34% and that increased the MFP $5.3 million; while mandated cost rose from $91.50 per student to $100. That added to the MFP $5.5 million.
The formula was thus increased by $293,418,851. However, the current MFP was not expected to cover the teacher pay raises that amount to $203,420,274. The 2008-09 recommendation will pass that amount to the MFP. That left the adjusted increase at $89,998,577.
However there is a price attached to this hard won gain. The MFP has, for years, been considered a block grant with no strings attached. Once approved by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor, local districts were empowered to fund in accord with priorities designed to meet demonstrated local needs. Since districts are composed of differing populations, and different social and economic conditions the local decision-making on spending the MFP revenue was seen as important.
By harping, incessantly, on purported failings in student achievement opponents of public education have convinced legislators that greater and more pointed oversight into how dollars are spent is desirable. The legislators recommendation was that MFP contain some strings be attached to the new dollars for at-risk and for career and technical. The at-risk increases and all of the career and technical funds, must be accounted for in reports to the state education department, and ultimately to the legislature.
This suggests that a policy change is converting the local flexibility of block grants into one where new dollar use is mandated at the state level.. “Big Brother”, it appears knows best how local public school districts’ cash should be spent.
Lost in the chatter is that the hard facts indicate the NAEP scores, once disaggregated, show that the vast majority of Louisiana’s public schools are succeeding in producing achievement at or very near the national average for their cohorts. The Louisiana students who come from the most deprived households are achieving on the national average for students across the nation, as are public school students coming from the most advantaged economic strata.
Also lost in the chatter about failures is the fact that 17% of Louisiana’s most economically advantaged students are enrolled in private schools, while the nation’s next largest percentage of students enrolled in private schools is 7%. This has the effect of depressing public school achievement scores.
Yet, the conclusion is that two thirds of Louisiana schools should spend in accord with state level policy dictates. The fact that only 6.3% (91) of the state’s 1,447 schools are failing to demonstrate success under local leadership is not seen as material to the new policy direction.
Public education advocates should recognize the tendency that this change in MFP policy represents in eroding local control of schools. By Don Whittinghill, LSBA Consultant


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