School districts say they’ve lost $165M in funding

School districts officials, including St. Mary Parish, say they need an increase in per pupil funding. The local board was one in an eight-parish region that has lost $165 million in public funds in recent years.

St. Mary Parish officials participated along with seven other Acadiana areas districts in a regional Louisiana School Boards Association conference held in Breaux Bridge Monday. Conference organizers asked chief financial officers to indicate the loss of state and federal funds by school districts over the past four years.

Donald Aguillard, St. Mary Parish school superintendent, reported the following losses:

—Loss of 2.75 percent growth in Minimum Foundation Program funding: $5.2 million.

—Retirement increases: $6.6 million.

—Transfer out to charter schools, etc.: $2.9 million.

—Scholarships: $30,500.

—Unfunded mandates like extended sick leave, LEAP remediation, etc.: $2.1 million.

—Loss of federal funds: $5.2 million.

—Loss of state funds: $1 million.

—Total: $23.24 million.

Scott Richard, executive director of the school boards association, says school districts in the eight-parish area have lost about $165 million in public funding in the past few years.

“Many systems are on the verge of financial crisis,” Richard said.

Monday’s forum is one of several planned across the state by the association on issues it will lobby in the upcoming legislative session. The association is pushing for an increase in per pupil funding, a delay of full implementation of performance-based pay schedules for teachers and a third-party evaluation of the state’s new value-added evaluation model for teachers.

Richard said the association also backs a moratorium on school performance scores in 2013-14 as the state transitions to changing accountability and curriculum standards.

The Advocate reports much of the discussion centered on the MFP — the formula the state uses to allocate per pupil funding.

Richard said school districts have not received adequate compensation from the state Minimum Foundation Program for the past several years because there have been no annual increases to cover the rising cost of goods and services. The failure to adjust the MFP has resulted in a loss of $62 million for school districts in Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary and Vermilion parishes, according to data presented by Richard.

“We’re looking at the fifth year of no growth in the per pupil allocation,” Richard said.

Increases in retirement benefits and employee health insurance and the loss of revenue to districts’ students who transfer out of their local public schools into charters, virtual schools or public and parochial schools as scholarship students whittle away the school district’s public dollars, Richard said.

Reporting from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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