REJECT THE UNCONSTITUTIONAL RADICAL MFP (Minimum Foundation Program - public school financing formula)

Even if you take no other action this year, please send a message to your Representative saying “Reject the Minimum Foundation Program,” SCR 99 by Sen. Conrad Appel (R-Metairie).

The $3.41 billion MFP is the formula that funnels state funds to local school districts. This year, Governor Bobby Jindal and his allies on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education are using the MFP to radically redefine public education in Louisiana.

The State Constitution says the MFP shall be used to fund “public elementary and secondary schools.”

But for the first time in history, money dedicated to public schools will be diverted to private and religious schools if this MFP is adopted.

In addition, the proposal funds an unprecedented increase in the number of on-line/virtual course providers, home schools and charter schools authorized by as-yet unidentified corporations, businesses and industry providers.

We know that the MFP will pay for more than 7,000 children to abandon public schools for private and religious schools next fall – schools that are not graded, with teachers who are not evaluated like their public counterparts.

In the near future, the MFP will pay for at least 200 new charter schools that do not require certified teachers. These schools will be responsible to unelected “charter authorizers” approved by Gov. Jindal’s BESE board.

On top of that, the education of countless students will be entrusted to virtual, online schools. That’s a $2 billion industry that one researcher says provides “insufficient evidence and accountability to ensure that the online courses are as rigorous and impart as much learning as traditional courses.”

No question about it, Gov. Jindal’s plan will deconstruct public education in order to enrich the corporations that run charter and online schools.

The MFP was written without any consideration for the fiscal impact it will have on local schools. BESE provided no simulations or reasonable projections concerning the effect of either vouchers, new charter schools, or other providers on school districts. Systems have no idea of how many teachers they will have to hire, or how many students will be in their classrooms.

The MFP should be grounded in known data; instead, every school system will have to start from dealing with the unknown.

The lack of planning is a reflection of the closed and opaque process by which BESE adopted this MFP formula. Members of the state board received the complicated, 40-page formula and its supporting documents on a Saturday night, then voted the following Monday at a specially called meeting, during which stakeholders and the general public were only allowed a few minutes to address the proposal.

Along with all its other faults, this will be the fourth year that the MFP includes no increase in the base per-pupil amount. Until 2009, it was traditional to include a minimum 2.75% increase. As a result, public education has been shortchanged by nearly $370 million at the same time that costs and unfunded mandates have increased.

If this formula is approved, it will certainly be the subject of a long, expensive judicial process. It will be much better for the state and for our children if this formula is rejected and returned to BESE. If the state board is unable to agree on a revised formula, then at least the MFP will revert to a much less controversial and constitutional computation.

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