Louisiana Outlines $16 Million in Education Cuts

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Louisiana's education department has announced more than $16 million in budget cuts for programs in elementary and secondary schools.

They include a nearly $2.3 million cut to a program aimed at improving reading and math skills and more than $3 million for adult education programs. More than $825,000 will be cut from a popular pre-kindergarten program.

The $16 million in cuts follow Gov. Bobby Jindal's December executive order calling on all state agencies to make cuts to deal with a $247.9 million budget shortfall. The reductions come in the middle of the state fiscal year that ends June 30.

"These decisions are difficult, but necessary, considering the significant mid-year shortfalls," Superintendent Paul Pastorek said in a news release. "All districts and most charter schools will be impacted by the reductions in some way, but our aim has been to identify cuts that are the least burdensome for them."

The department stressed that the cuts have no bearing on the state's per-pupil spending formula known as the Minimum Foundation Program, but instead come out of block grant and other special programs that fall outside that basic formula. The education department itself will lose about $4.1 million by eliminating vacant positions and trimming contracts, supplies and travel.

The reading and math program has been described by Pastorek as being a key to improving student achievement. Kerry Laster, executive director of literacy and numeracy in the state Department of Education, said she hopes school districts will shuffle funding from other programs to keep the initiative intact.

"I would try to hold this program together because kids cannot read," she told The Advocate newspaper. The decision to cut the reading and math program was a last resort, she said.

Laster said a bill before the U.S. Congress may increase funding for literacy efforts in the future.

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