Oct 22, 2010 4:25 PM
BATON ROUGE, La - Today, the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) outlined a cost savings plan of more than $6.3 million to address the state's mid-year deficit. While Department leaders say the cuts are necessary, they emphasized the support and commitment of the Governor's Office and the Division of Administration to minimize the impact of these reductions on districts, schools, and most importantly, the more than 650,000 K-12 students enrolled in the state's public schools.
"The LDOE and the Administration clearly recognize and understand what is at stake when we're deliberating potential reductions to education funding," State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek said. "After a great deal of study and analysis, we proposed recommendations that are designed to minimize the impact of these necessary reductions on our districts, schools and students."
Included in the adjustment is a reduction of $5 million for the state's Li teracy and Numeracy program, which can be supported through alternative sources of funding.
"A portion of the state's 8G fund is dedicated to fund Literacy and Numeracy programs, and that funding will remain in place. Additionally, districts can rely on federal dollars. Specifically, LDOE recently worked with the U.S. Department of Education to access almost $2 million in Reading First funding, which can be used by eligible districts to support local literacy programs. Furthermore, districts can rely on their federal EduJobs funding to support salaries and benefits for personnel working in these programs. The cumulative effect of these resources can more than offset this reduction," Pastorek explained.
In mid-September, federal officials announced Louisiana would receive federal aid through the Education Jobs Fund. The federal dollars allocated to Louisiana will flow to local school districts and must be used to pay the salaries and ben efits of teachers, school administrators, and other essential staff during the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years. Personnel costs make up almost 75 percent of the Literacy and Numeracy adjustment announced today.
Beyond cuts to its literacy program, the Recovery School District (RSD) will also bear a reduction of $400,000 due to the mid-year adjustment. The state-run school district is the only district in the state that will be hit with additional cuts outside literacy and numeracy programs.
The remaining reduction of nearly $900,000 will be realized through a decrease in LDOE's $57 million agency budget and includes strategies to streamline the Department's operations, including some personnel positions. In the last two years, full-time permanent positions for the Department have declined by 20 percent, including layoffs and vacancy eliminations.
Furthermore, Louisiana has seen significant improvements across a ll schools-from a 37 percent drop in schools below the Academically Unacceptable bar over the past three years, to more than a third of all schools meeting their growth targets in 2010.
"In the past two years of reductions in revenue from the state, we've demonstrated that we can indeed do more with less if we are smarter about how we spend our money. Regardless of the economic circumstances of our state, as stewards of taxpayer dollars, we must commit ourselves to challenge and question how we've historically used our education dollars. If we focus resources on strategies that produce higher results, we will not only persevere, but we can position ourselves to thrive nonetheless. Indeed, future generations will even benefit from the choices we make now," Pastorek said.
The state's Minimum Foundation Program formula will not be affected by the adjustments announced today. Governor Jindal and lawmakers allotted more than $3.3 bill ion in the state's 2010-2011 budget. This dedication not only maintains the state's previous level of support for Louisiana's per pupil expenditure, but actually represents an increase of $33.4 million, thus protecting the largest allocation of education funding as other states across the country make drastic reductions to their public education funding.