(9/7/18) Following a meeting with business and university leaders in New Orleans Thursday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said his top budget priority for 2019 is increasing funding for kindergarten through 12 grade education.
He said teachers and school support staff need a pay raise, and the state needs to increase its funding of the minimum foundation program, or MFP.
“We have not increased our funding for K through 12 education, in terms of the per-pupil allocation through the minimum foundation program, but about one time in the last 10 years,” Edwards said. “We have to do that. And it’s critically important that we do that so we take some pressure off of our school systems, but also because it’s time for our teachers to get a raise.”
Edwards said the state’s budget is stable now that the looming fiscal cliff has been filled with the 2018 partial renewal of a fifth-penny sales tax. He projected no midterm cuts this year and said he expects state spending to increase next year because of gains in economic development.
Orleans Parish School Board Member Woody Koppel said the shift from budget cuts to education investments is a welcome change.
“In Louisiana, we need to do better, and we can do better. We’re already at the bottom. It’s better that we devote more money and make our way towards the top,” Koppel said.
Edwards also mentioned other metro-area projects that he wants prioritized in next year’s budget, including investments in Mississippi River ports, closing the deal on a new development to bring Avondale Shipyard back to life as multi-use warehouse space, getting Charity Hospital back into commerce and revitalizing its surrounding corridor.
The 2019 regular legislative session convenes at noon on April 8, 2019.