Rather than fess up to a budget shortfall (and make Jindal sad), White chooses to steal money from schools

I just read an article on The Lens that tripped my BS meter. (Pretty much anytime John White opens his mouth it goes off these days.) It’s about school counts and funding, which I was in charge of for almost 9 years before John White arrived on this scene with his band of bandits.

Only a few months before their fiscal year ends, some of the city’s schools – whether they’ve budgeted for it or not – will be getting $181 less per student in local revenue, a cut of 4 percent.

Most people probably won’t catch what happened, and they are bewildered, as well they should be. White just played a little sleight of hand trick on everyone, making schools that have more students at the February count, inexplicably owe money to the State (instead of vice versa) as has been the case ever since we switched over to two collections starting in 2006-2007 after Katrina. The February count is the Official MFP count, and impacts payments made in March until the October 1st count of the following school year – which is an update from the previous year’s MFP (Minimum Foundation Program) funding formula. What has happened in the 9 years I was over this area (and having the provide justifications twice a year for the increase and decrease to our office of Management and Finance) is that school districts that lost 50 or more students in October over the previous school year’s February count, had their funding stream reduced until the next official MFP count, and school districts with increases over 50 students had their funding increased. February is the official count and school districts get their funding based on this new count, down to the student, that’s kind of what makes it a per pupil count. A per pupil count does not go down when you get more students, and up when you have fewer students, that’s kind of the opposite of a per-pupil count, ya know?

Though the per-pupil amount for the 2012-13 school year was projected to be $4,110 a child, an influx of 1,257 additional students, as well as an unexpected $1.7 million increase in fees for legacy costs, has cut the allocation to $3,929 per child this year, education department officials said.

You see if Orleans had an influx of more students, that would mean the per pupil amount Orleans was able to supply would be cut because they same pot of money would have to be divided among more students, meaning less per student, right? That would mean the state would actually have to increase their contribution to keep the funding level with the previous year.

Per-pupil state allocations to schools in all 64 parishes are based on what’s called the Minimum Foundation Program. They are designed to increase if local revenues decrease, assuring, at least theoretically, that students in poorer parishes can receive an education comparable to what’s available in richer parishes. An increase of $244 per student that OPSB schools received for the 2012-13 school year was based on projected enrollments and revenue, not actual enrollments and revenue, Padian said.

In the past (like every year since 2006) the Louisiana department of education would have to make supplemental requests to keep up with the increases in students. This would be the first time I heard an increase in students resulted in a net decrease for a parish or school district.

This is simply a brazen money grab to defer asking the legislature for additional funding for the additional students. If White is allowed to do this, he is essentially doing away with per-pupil funding and converting it to a lump sum for a school district, regardless of their population or needs. That makes his budgeting easier, but shifts all the burden and scrambling to the school districts, where it does not belong.

School districts need to be given the money they are promised, and when their student populations go up, their funding should increase. That’s simple math, that’s per-pupil funding, and that’s just plain common sense. I’m not sure where John White learned his “new MFP math”, but he is in desperate need of a refresher before he bankrupts our school districts through his ignorance and White lies.