|My columns appear each Sunday in the Eunice News. As a retired Unitarian Universalist minister, I I teach music in rural, high poverty schools because I believe that high quality education is a human right for all Americans. Years ago, I was the first woman UU chaplain to serve in the Army, and the first woman to serve in many units as a combat chaplain. I wrote two books about military life. Over the past fourteen years, I've been interviewed by CNN, NBC, CBS, NPR, C-SPAN and regional programs to discuss government reform, gender issues, affordable housing, public education and other issues that impact our society. .|
This commentary re-posted:
Skimming MFP - My commentary published in Eunice News on July 6, 2014 Copyright Jul 2, 2014
Louisiana was in the fast lane of the national super highway called “Education Reform” long before other states discovered their public education systems needed to be modernized. Granted, we were further behind when we started, but, Louisiana was modernizing long before President George W. Bush passed the “No Child Left Behind Act” with strong bi-partisan support in Congress.
But, in the past few years, our progress has been stalled. One major reason for this stall: the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Governor Bobby Jindal refuse to give the fair share of school tax dollars to local school districts.
By refusing to send the legally required fair share of Minimum Foundation Program school funds to each district, Bobby and BESE are in direct violation of our state constitution.
Our state constitution requires the Louisiana Board of Education to provide resources and funding to every district in the state, using what is called the Minimum Foundation Program to make sure that every classroom teacher can do their job right.
Specifically, Article VIII, Section 13 explains the Minimum Foundation Program funding requirements. You can look it up online and read for yourself.
The most conservative estimates suggest that in 2012-13 alone, Bobby and BESE cheated our schools of $323 PER STUDENT! In that one school year, $200 million was skimmed from funds owed to public schools.
Since 2009, we've had major teacher lay-offs every year when Bobby and BESE starved us of our funds.
I can assure you, every teacher lay-off in our schools is directly correlated with a decline in our school performance scores. But, these days, Bobby and BESE would have you believe that certified teachers don't matter. According to their theories, our kids can learn just as easily by surfing on the internet, supervised by high school graduates without college degrees.
That idea is working so badly that the NCAA listed several of Louisiana's online schools as ineligible for placement in college athletics. Bobby Jindal's highly touted K-12, Inc. is high on the list of ineligible online schools, but that's a story for another day.
Research has shown time and again that staffing our classrooms with certified teachers is a very strong predictor of student success.
But, just when school performance scoring rules got tougher, Bobby and BESE skimmed our Minimum Foundation Program funds. Our class sizes ballooned making it difficult to give our poorly performing students the support they need. Our school scores went down.
At $323 per kid, Bobby and BESE owe ¾ of a million dollars to Eunice schools for just ONE YEAR.
We could have 15 more licensed teachers in Eunice public school classrooms to coach our kids in math, reading, science, and social studies if Bobby and BESE did their constitutional jobs.
They took our children's classroom money and spent it elsewhere.
Where did the money go? To fund profit-making Charter School Management Companies, vouchers to private schools that have been rated as below standard, to set up “on-line” schools that take exorbitant fees from the state with failure rates that would put our neighborhood schools out of business.
Why are we not fussing to high heavens about this?
Probably, because most of us did not know that the Louisiana Board of Education and Governor Bobby Jindal were siphoning off our school district Minimum Foundation Program funds to pay for programs that are NOT constitutionally valid.
Bobby and BESE's spending choices ARE NOT constitutionally valid. Our state courts are saying so every time another lawsuit challenging the legality of Bobby and BESE's financial shenanigans hit their court dockets.
Our school boards did not know how to fight these constitutional violations at first. But finally, school districts across the state filed a lawsuit to get our fair share of our tax dollars returned to our schools.
Local school boards are finally leaning on Louisiana's Constitution to force Bobby and BESE to get their act together to properly fund our schools.
We will win this fight. We need your help, though. We need you to contact your BESE board member and Governor Bobby Jindal. We need you to tell these politicians that they owe us at least $323 more per student per year if they want to claim they are true Louisiana patriots.
Whenever you hear Bobby claim his adherence to constitutional principles, it is very important for all of us to respond with one voice: Where's our Minimum Foundation Program funds, Bobby?
You believe in upholding our Louisiana Constitution? Show us the