FILE - Louisiana State Capitol

The Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Antrell Williams | Flickr via Creative Commons)

The state House of Representatives voted 103-0 on Monday to approve a new $3.85 billion funding formula for K-12 education, resolving what had been the most prominent hurdle to reaching a budget deal before the session must end on Thursday.

Lawmakers voted to spend $140 million more on K-12 education. That increase allows for a $1,000 raise for teachers and other certified personnel, a $500 raise for non-certified support workers such as bus drivers and janitors, and a 1.375% increase in per-pupil funding to districts.

Gov. John Bel Edwards sought both increases, which would represent the first raise and the second per-pupil increase in a decade. House Republicans have supported raises from the beginning of the session, even proposing slightly larger ones.

But some House Republican leaders opposed larger block grants to districts, saying they weren’t sure the state could afford the increase and were not convinced the money would be spent wisely. Some said they would only consider a per-pupil increase if it was tied to new transparency measures, which the measure approved Monday is not.

Supporters said state law mandates at least 70 percent of the grants must be spent on instruction, not central office overhead. The additional resources are needed, they argued, in part to deal with rising costs and to give raises to teachers, such as Pre-K teachers, who are not included in the Minimum Foundation Program formula.

But the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which is the only body that can alter the MFP, unanimously endorsed the proposal twice. And now both the House and Senate have approved it with only one dissenting vote.

The only way to ensure a state-supported permanent raise rather than a one-time stipend is to include it in the MFP, supporters argued. Applause broke out on the House floor when the vote count was announced.

“Only one hurdle for this raise remains in the Legislature and that’s approval of the budget bill that supports this raise and the increase to the MFP per pupil amount,” Edwards said in a prepared statement. “As we enter the final days of the legislative session, we have a chance to invest in education at every level, from early childhood all the way through higher education.”

Reporter

David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.