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Louisiana School Board Association

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Hear the Echoes # 2 - Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hear the Echoes #2

In the Tea Partyís Face

                Sen. Ben Nevers delivered a passionate call to Louisiana School Board members at their last annual conference in March of this year.  His call was to demand the Jindal administration restore the 2.75% growth factor to the Minimum Foundation Plan; and in doing so live up to last yearís promise to do so.


                LSBA and all associated stake-holders mounted a concerted campaign to do so and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education honored the Jindal administration commitment.  However, a funny thing happened on the way through the legislature.  Superintendent Pastorek, a BESE hireling, listened to shouts from the 4th Floor of the Capitol, and Gov. Jindalís minions forced BESE to take back the MFP and once again violate Jindal administration pledges by removing the growth factor.


                Sen. Nevers used some unusual prerogatives and diverted the proposed MFP to a hearing in the Senate instead of the House so that the administration was put in the position of renouncing Senate action.


                Now, the valiant Senator from Washington Parish once again stands up for public education funding.  Speaking before the Capitol Press Club, in Baton Rouge, Sen. Nevers said that without some new funding sources "the dismantling of education will be the coffin that we bury Louisiana in for decades to come.Ē


                Noting that Louisiana is "among the worst in the nationĒ in poverty rates, health care, per capita income and opportunity for young people, he said that education dollars are an investment in the future and the only way to make that future brighter.


                Instead of investing in the stateís future work force, the Governorís administration is flirting with even greater cuts to education budgets than the $270 million in higher education, and $60+ million in K-12 that were already inflicted on educational institutions.


                Now this position by the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee places him at the edge of a precipice in relations with Gov. Jindalís administration.  The highly visible position of Gov. Jindal and of Tea Party activists is to starve government at all costs.


                Conventional wisdom is that legislative bodies must oppose all tax hikes.  However, it takes very little research to find suggestions that the public feels otherwise.

o   In New Jersey, the Eagleton Institute of Politics conducted a poll that found 59% of that heavily-taxed stateís residents believe the state should spend more on education, while only 15% believe less should be spent.

o   Iowa resident polled reveals that 51% would spend more on education of kindergarten through 12th grade students.

o   A September poll in Idaho revealed that 59% of likely voters oppose the legislative decision to cut public school funding by $460 per student.  Is public education funding too low in Idaho?  You bet responded 56% of likely voters.

o   In Texas, a Houston Chronicle survey recently revealed that only 4% of voters would cut spending on public education. 

o   New Yorkers too are now on record as being opposed to spending cuts in education.   A Siena Research Institute poll revealed that in the face of a $9 billion budget gap 52% of voters opposed spending cuts for education and health care.

o   Georgians are so concerned about funding cuts, many are willing to pay higher taxes or fees to pay for public education.   This was found in a Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey conducted in July of this year.  In that survey 50% of respondents were against education cuts.

o   A post-election survey of Californianís, who face the largest deficit in the nation, overwhelming oppose cutting K-12 school funding.  With 70% responding that K-12 spending should be a top priority, 33% thought that California should increase spending to K-12 schools.

o   The surveys by the Daily Kos found only about 10% of national respondents suggest that education should bear the biggest part of spending cuts. 


                With the starvation budgetary view of the Jindal administration, and most GOP legislative leaders, Sen. Neverís bold call for a reevaluation is like a bet on craps.  Long odds against his prevailing in upcoming legislative budget battles should bring hordes of education stake-holders face to face with their legislators. 


                It appears as if the voting public puts public education at the top of its concerns about adequate funding.   Does it take mass marches to the Capitol steps to register public angst about surging educational needs to the top of the legislatureís prior list for funding?


                Ask you local Senator and Representative!  Next year will see a lot of them asking for votes that they hope will return them to office.  How accountable is each individual stance on adequately funding K-12 education?