The roughly $5.5 million a year provided by the state for dual enrollment students earning college credits while still in high school has been cut from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposed budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

The funding issue was brought to light through an article submitted by Ron Chapman, a businessman and history professor at Chalmette’s Nunez Community College who writes a regular column for The St. Bernard Voice. According to Chapman, 11,113 students statewide participated in the dual enrollment program during the fall of 2011, collectively earning 32,629 credit hours.

Asked about the program’s funding status, the governor’s Division of Administration spokesman Michael DiResto says that the program has not been eliminated, but its funding would, under Jindal’s budget, fall under the umbrella of the Minimum Foundation Program, which allocates a certain amount of money per student to districts based on a complex formula.

“[Dual enrollment] will be funded through the MFP at a level based on the number of students who participate, instead of at a set amount that limits participation,” DiResto says. “This initiative will expand dual enrollment options, allowing students to take up to five courses, while the dollars follow them, rather than funding the program through a line-item and limiting students to one class. Through this reform, state government will be able to increase dual enrollment options for students, and create a system that is more sustainable for taxpayers.”

According to data provided by Lafayette Parish School System Marketing Director Angie Simoneaux, Lafayette Parish public school students earned 218 credits at South Louisiana Community College; 155 credits at Acadiana Technical College, and 138 credits at UL Lafayette during the 2010-2011 school year. It’s not clear how much local universities and technical colleges received in reimbursement from the state last year, but The Monroe News Star reports that UL Monroe received $234,000 in reimbursement from the state this year alone:
ULM Outreach coordinator Marilyn McIntosh said until the program is officially funded by the Legislature, ULM has been making students aware that there is no guarantee.

“We’ve been letting kids know that at this point there is no money to fund Early Start for tuition payments (next year),” McIntosh said. “These students are scheduling classes with the understanding that there will be no funds to pay for the class. Hopefully that will change.”
Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Holly Boffe, Lafayette’s BESE rep, says she believes that under the new funding formula, the $234,000 ULM received from the state this year would have been paid by the local school districts who send their students to ULM.

In other words, Boffe confirms, the program will still be available to students who choose to participate, but local districts will be forced to foot the bill without the roughly $5.5 million that the state has budgeted for the program in the past.

“The children can use that [MFP] money for different programs,” Boffe says. “The districts had line-item budgets for this type of thing in the past they received additional funding from the state. This is where the districts get so angry. But when things aren’t part of MFP all it takes is a strike on the budget for those programs to disappear.”

In his submission, Chapman blasts the funding cuts for the program, noting that “the cost of this progressive educational endeavor ... is a pittance for the return in investment.”

“This state spills that much!” Chapman writes. “The hope is that individual schools will ‘find’ the money in their own Minimum Foundation Budgets to finance this need. I laude the governor for trying his best to balance the state’s dismal finances, however, it might be wise to look beyond education and health care to meet the needs.  In the rush to trim expenses, Louisiana has destroyed one of the most progressive educational programs the state has developed in years.”

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