As two Louisiana teacher’s unions move forward with lawsuits in an effort to block the use of public school dollars on private/parochial school educations, a 2010 lawsuit challenging the state’s public school-funding formula could have even more damaging implications for the state if successful in court.
According to a report from The Alexandria Town Talk, the target of the two union lawsuits challenging the method through which the state plans to fund Gov. Bobby Jindal’s private school voucher program — the state’s Minimum Foundation Program — is also tied to a 2010 lawsuit filed on behalf of St. Helena Parish teachers and school board members who contend that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s use of local sales tax collections as a determinant in how much money each school district receives from the state is an illegal practice that has cost local school districts a combined $4.8 billion since 2007.
MFP breaks down into a per-pupil dollar amount that the state gives local school boards. It’s calculated through a complex formula that factors in both local and state dollars, with the state’s allocation being “the total — minus the local portion,” explains Brian Blackwell, the attorney representing St. Helena in the lawsuit:
The primary law addressed in the lawsuit is R.S.17, Section 97.1 ... the law states “no portion of the proceeds derived from any sales tax levied and collected by a parish or city school board shall be used or taken into consideration in any formula adopted by the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and submitted to the legislature for approval.”
Joan Hunt, general counsel for the state Department of Education, acknowledged Friday that local sales tax “is a factor in the calculation of local wealth. That’s the subject of the lawsuit.”
Asked whether that practice conflicts with the law, she said “That’s their argument. A court will decide this.”
She said she would not comment on the state’s case because “it is ongoing litigation.”
BESE did try to get the lawsuit dismissed as having no merit but Judge Wilson Fields, who is handling the case, threw those motions out.
Blackwell said that based on his research, BESE’s including sales taxes in the calculation reduced school systems’ receipts statewide an average of between $800 million and $900 million a year.
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.