La. Lawmakers Give Education Big Boost
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2006 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Education will see an unusually large spending increase under the 2007-08 budget package adopted in Louisiana, with substantial pay raises for teachers, a set of new high school initiatives, and additional technology spending, among other items.
All told, the K-12 budget will climb to $3.48 billion, an increase of $462 million—or 15 percent—over the fiscal year that ended June 30, according to the Louisiana education department.
Under the state’s $30 billion budget, all public school teachers will get annual raises of at least $2,375, with many receiving substantially more. Teachers in 51 of the state’s 69 districts are eligible for increases that will average about $3,600, or 9 percent, state officials said.
“We said our teachers deserve competitive pay, and we delivered,” Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco said in a June 28 address in Baton Rouge. “Louisiana has never really made education our number-one priority until today.”
Last year, the legislature approved pay raises of $1,500 for teachers.
Other highlights of the new budget include $16 million for high school initiatives linked to recent changes enacted by the state board of education. The agenda is aimed at halving Louisiana’s dropout rate over the next decade and better preparing students for careers and college. As part of the changes, the state has mandated a more rigorous high school curriculum, including an additional math requirement for graduation.
In another such move, the board this spring changed the way it calculates the performance of high schools under the state’s aggressive accountability system. The board introduced a “graduation index” that is intended to better measure how effective high schools are in graduating students.
The changes will help better “align how we judge high schools with the goals of what we want high schools to do,” said Leslie R. Jacobs, a member of the state board.
Also included in the budget are $25 million for classroom-based technology and $5 million for a pilot program to provide laptop computers to 6th graders.
Gov. Blanco, a Democrat, is not seeking a second term and will step down in January.
Vol. 26, Issue 44, Page 17