Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) • April 27
The state’s first-term Republican governor delivered a sobering message in his annual address to the state legislature, warning lawmakers repeatedly that the tough economic times will force the state to “do more with less.” And that “less” apparently includes lower spending on both K-12 and higher education, based on the budget proposal he recently put forward.
Also in the speech, Gov. Jindal called for new accountability and transparency requirements to better monitor the spending of certain state aid that school districts receive and to ensure that money reaches the intended student populations.
“There are no easy fixes,” Gov. Jindal said in his address in Baton Rouge, as the legislature began its regular session. “We can’t tax, borrow, spend our way out of this,” he said of the economic situation. “We’re going to have to work hard together to do more with less.”
His proposed $26.7 billion operating budget for fiscal 2010, which begins July 1, would dedicate $4.9 billion to K-12 education, a reduction of $141 million, or 2.8 percent, from what was budgeted for the current year, according to the governor’s office.
Overall, the state budget under Gov. Jindal’s plan would be nearly 10 percent, or $2.9 billion, lower than in the current year.
In his annual speech, akin to a State of the State address, the governor noted Louisiana’s difficult fiscal straits. The state already has made midyear budget cuts of $341 million and has seen declining revenue from taxes on oil and gas production and from other sources.
Gov. Jindal proposed a set of what he termed “budget reforms” in his speech, including new requirements on school districts that concern a portion of the money they receive under the Minimum Foundation Program, the main state spending channel for K-12 education.
“We want to work with you to bring more transparency to that formula,” he told lawmakers, "[to] make sure those dollars actually go to help the intended students, go to help the intended classrooms deliver an excellent education for every student in Louisiana.”
Beginning in fiscal 2011, districts would be required to allocate such block grant money in a way that ensures it benefits certain student populations, including students living in poverty, those who need special education services, and those needing career and technical education.
To keep track, districts would have to report annually on how the money was spent. In addition, the plan would require the state department of education to post information on funding allocations and expenditures by district and school level on a new Web site for parents.
In other proposals, Gov. Jindal called for expanding the state’s focus on reducing the dropout rate. This spring, Louisiana launched a pilot program in 14 districts to help prevent students from quitting school.
“Our state cannot realize its full potential until our people realize their full potential,” the governor told lawmakers. “Every student must be encouraged to complete their high school education and continue their studies.”
A version of this article appeared in the May 13, 2009 edition of Education Week as State of the States