Louisiana state senators Wednesday backed a $3.8 billion public school formula that includes all financing increases sought by Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Support for the K-12 spending plan came in a 37-1 vote that puts the Senate at odds with House Republicans, who stalled the same proposal in their chamber.
The formula that won Senate passage includes $140 million in increases: a $1,000 teacher pay raise, $500 raise for school support workers and $39 million in new block grant money for school districts.
House Republicans want $122 million in increases: a $1,200 teacher pay raise, a $600 support worker raise and no block grant boost. Louisiana's state education board crafted the Senate-passed formula, which was handled by Senate Education Chairman Dan "Blade" Morrish, a Jennings Republican.
Lawmakers can reject or approve it, but they cannot change it.
"Moving this across the hall (to the House), it sends a message," Morrish said. House Republicans want the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to send a new formula. If the education board and lawmakers don't agree on a new financing formula, the state continues to use the formula already on the books.
That means the teacher and support worker pay raises would have to be funded separately in the budget, and wouldn't become part of the permanent, annual formula.
That could put state financing for the raises at risk in the future. Sen. Conrad Appel, a Metairie Republican, was the only senator to vote against the formula crafted by the education board.
Appel said he preferred new money to pay for early learning programs, which aren't covered through the K-12 school formula. "My vote is no because I want to see substantial funding for early childhood education, and I want to see it start this year," he said.
Sen. J.P. Morrell, a New Orleans Democrat, called it a "false equivalent" to suggest that supporting the public schools' formula was a vote against early childhood education.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 3: www.legis.la.gov