Friday, November 19, 2010

Education Funding Battles

It is absolutely critical that educators in large numbers make contact with the Governor, state legislators and members of Congress in an effort to maintain adequate funding for public education. Funding for education is an investment in the future of our state and its citizens, especially its young people. If we allow education funding such as the recent edu-Jobs fund to be transferred to other purposes in the state budget, our children and grandchildren will suffer.
The article in The Advocate points out that Senator Landreu has sent a letter to Governor Jindal requesting that the Edu-Jobs fund be used only for the education purposes described in the legislation. The idea is that present funds going to the MFP should not be removed and supplanted by this new money. That defeats the purpose of the legislation. We applaud Senator Landreu for making this effort. Also, if necessary, local school systems should consider legal action to stop this misappropriation of federal money.

Unfortunately there will be many more battles in the months and years to come to defend the funding of public education, and it is up to those of us who have dedicated our careers to the education of children to fight this battle at every opportunity. Because of the budget and political climate we face, these battles will be especially difficult.

A large part of the problem we face was caused by the partial repeal of the Stelly Plan a couple of years ago by legislators who acted for political reasons rather than for the good of the state. The Stelly Plan passed in the first part of this decade was designed to restructure Louisiana's taxes removing some of the sales tax burden on citizens for purchase of food and medicine and replacing these revenues with a slightly higher income tax. The plan was originally revenue neutral but by its nature was designed to be more of a growth tax to allow Louisiana tax revenues to keep up with inflation pressure on the cost of state services. One example is the increased cost of school employee and teacher retirement, which has been an increasing burden on local school systems. By repealing the growth part of the Stelly Plan, the legislature guaranteed that the state will not be able to properly fund local school systems in the coming years. Thank you to Senator Nevers for suggesting that the Stelly plan tax revenues should be restored to their original level for at least the next few years.

In addition to normal growth of costs, the legislature every year adds unfunded mandates such as the recent law requiring formal evaluations of all teachers each year with the inclusion of student testing results as 50% of the evaluation. Mark my word, this will end up being a totally unnecessary financial burden on all local school systems in Louisiana. This plan will do nothing at all to improve education, and can actually be counterproductive, because it is not based on solid principles of good teaching. With the renewed emphasis by voters to get big government out of our lives, it does not make sense for the State to dictate how teachers should be evaluated by local school boards.

Please for the sake of the children we teach, all educators must maintain constant contact with our governor, legislators, and members of congress to insure adequate funding of education and to prevent the addition of unfunded mandates that do not advance education.

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