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Story Archives: BESE's out of control
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|BESE's out of control|
Leave it to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to stare reality in its eyes and ignore it.
Or snub its nose at it.
How else can BESE explain its request for an increase in state funding for the 2010-2011 fiscal year as the state faces a $2 billion revenue shortfall over the next two years? Anyone?
Before we delve into the lunacy of BESE's request, it is important to understand how and why BESE rides herd over roughly one-third of the state general fund budget void of any viable input from the governor, the Legislature and the taxpayers, too.
Per the state Constitution, BESE crafts its own spending plan for K-12 education in Louisiana, which it oversees. The spending plan is commonly called the MFP, or Minimum Foundation Plan.
When the Legislature receives BESE's proposed MFP for a given fiscal year, lawmakers vote to either approve it or reject it. If lawmakers reject BESE's MFP proposal for a new fiscal year, the MFP that BESE is utilizing at the time is implemented for the new fiscal year. In other words, the Legislature has very little say in how much money is appropriated for BESE, and lawmakers have no authority in telling BESE how to spend it.
A governor isn't much better off. A governor has the constitutional authority to appoint a few members to BESE, but a governor doesn't control enough members of BESE to control the board itself. That's probably a good thing, but BESE's behavior of late could prompt one to think otherwise.
Be that as it may, when Gov. Bobby Jindal pieced together a proposed budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year, which begins July 1, he asked BESE to submit a stand-still MFP to the Legislature for consideration. In other words, Jindal asked BESE to spend the same amount of money in the new fiscal year as it currently is spending in the 2009-2010 fiscal year. We're talking about $3.3 billion, or about one-third of the amount of money the Legislature can spend each year through the state's general fund.
BESE balked at Jindal's request. Instead, BESE plowed ahead like a bull in a china closet and requested a 2.75 percent increase in funding in its MFP for the new fiscal year, completely ignoring the dire circumstance the state faces financially over the next two years. That 2.75 percent increase represents about $100 million.
If the Legislature approves BESE's MFP proposal during its regular session, which begins later this month, the Jindal administration says the $100 million in additional funding for BESE probably would be taken from proposed appropriations for higher education and/or health care. BESE may get its way, but someone else is going to suffer.
Apparently that doesn't mean anything to BESE. After all, BESE showed its contempt for Jindal by ignoring his request to tow the line on spending in the new fiscal year while other agencies in state government are prepping to make do with less money amid the worst economic atmosphere Louisiana has experienced in years.
If that's not enough to cause your blood to boil, let's reflect for a moment on the sour news regarding state finances that a member of the important Revenue Estimating Conference confirmed earlier this week.
According to LSU economist James Richardson, income and sales tax collections by state government failed to meet expectations in February. That said, Jindal most likely will be forced to order another mid-year budget cut. We're talking about a $250 million-$400 million cut in state funding before the end of the current fiscal year, which concludes June 30.
The pending budget cut would come on the heels of a $248 million budget cut that Jindal ordered earlier this year to cope with lackluster sales and income tax collections. Remember the bellyaching we heard in the higher education and health care communities in light of the cuts Jindal ordered earlier this year?
Still, there's BESE…plowing ahead…ignoring reality…acting as if money grows on trees.