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Louisiana Board Adopts New Formula Increasing State Aid to Poor Districts

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The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has approved a revised school-funding formula that would provide more money to poor school districts and less to wealthy ones.

The plan, adopted last month, calls for an additional $238 million in state spending in its first year. It also would require some $120 million in new taxes at the local level.

The proposal will probably not be implemented until the 1991-92 school year, however, according to a researcher at the state education department.

Although the board's approval signals "support for the principles in the plan," the researcher said, the board will not take a final vote on the proposal's specifics until December. If approved then, the legislature would consider the new formula in its 1991 session.

The plan was prepared for the board by John Augenblick, the Denver-based consultant who recently helped design Kentucky's finance-reform plan.

In addition to recommending reforms in the state's funding formula, the proposal suggests changes in such areas as teacher salaries and local authority to raise taxes.

Greater Equity Sought

The proposed changes in the state's minimum foundation program are designed to ensure greater equity in school spending.

Currently, the m.f.p. amounts to about $1,850 per student on a weighted basis. In the 1989-90 school year, the state provided 96 percent of the funds for the m.f.p., according to the education department.

The largest component of state aid is distributed without regard to districts' relative wealth or tax effort.

Mr. Augenblick's study suggests that districts should receive money from the state according to their tax effort. High-wealth districts should not receive the total amount called for in the m.f.p., the report says, while many low-wealth districts should continue to receive nearly the full amount.

The report also suggests instituting a "second tier" of the m.f.p. This second level would allow districts to receive additional state funds if they raised property taxes on their own.

The state should not match these funds on a dollar-for-dollar basis, the study maintains, but instead should limit its reimbursement of them to 40 percent.

The report also urges the state to adopt a teacher-salary schedule; phase in the new funding formula over several years; give local school boards more authority to raise taxes; adjust the m.f.p. yearly on the state level; form a commission to evaluate the new system; improve the state data-collection system on school finance; provide aid for debt service for property-poor districts; and, along with localities, consider changes in property-tax laws.--m.n.

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