Bastrop Daily Enterprise - Bastrop, LA
  • School system hindered by freeze in state funds

  • The Morehouse Parish School Board is faced with constantly rising costs to operate the parish school system.

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  • The Morehouse Parish School Board is faced with constantly rising costs to operate the parish school system.
    “Inflation is increasing,” said Superintendent Tom Thrower. “We are having to do more with less money from the state.”
    A large portion of the school’s funding comes from the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP). In existence for 20 years, this program determines what the state pays the district for each student.
    The 2011-2012 school year will be the third straight year that Gov. Bobby Jindal has frozen the increase in the MFP funding. With rising costs for retirement and insurance, the MFP is not rising to offset those costs.
    Thrower said the program was created to help with the school system’s ever growing budget.
    “The MFP was originally called the ‘growth factor,’” Thrower said. “It was intended to offset the rising cost in things like insurance, fuel, retirement and supplies.”
    Each year, the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) is required to submit a budget for the MFP to the Legislature, which can either accept the budget or send it back.
    The MFP allocation is determined by a formula that is based on two things -- students’ needs and local taxes. Student needs are calculated by the Student Information System.  Part of the formula estimates the number of students enrolled while considering that students in specific categories cost more than others to educate. 
    “The legislature knows how many students we have enrolled from our data bank,” Thrower said. “They are able to access all our information on the amount of vocational, at risk and special needs students we have.”
    The second part of the formula is the Annual Financial Report (AFR). School system business manager Renee Hinton submits the AFR every year in September. This consists of all the local tax information.
    “The more local taxes you have, then the more MFP you receive,” Hinton said. “They plug in all the information from your students and finances and get an amount.”
    The Louisiana Department of Education factored in a 2.75 percent increase per year in MFP funding. This is the increase Jindal has frozen.
    “The 2.75 [percent] growth factor has been frozen for the last three years,” Thrower said. “The MFP has averaged $28,000,000 per year for the last three years. That averages out to be around $2.3 million that we have not received. We need that money to help with the rising cost of things like insurance, fuel, busses and retirement.”