State standardized tests, vouchers in danger due to budget crisis

State standardized tests and vouchers at stake due to budget crisis

(FOX NEWS) - Standardized tests and vouchers are in jeopardy because of deep cuts the state House approved for the Louisiana Department of Education, and as students in local public schools go about learning, people running the school systems are on pins and needles.

"We're very concerned at the state of Louisiana and the budget crisis, and certainly we want to protect education dollars as much as possible," said Seth Bloom, president of the Orleans Parish School Board.

The Department of Education says it faces $51.9 million in cuts for the fiscal year that ends June 30. It says through an executive order signed by the governor, the department received a $4.4 million cut, and then the House approved another $44.2 million. Through amendments, the House tacked on nearly $3 million more in cuts for the Education Department.

But the Minimum Foundation Program was spared. That is the tool by which the state determines what it costs to educate public school students and then sends funds to local school districts.

Bloom is relieved that the MFP dollars were not cut.

"This late in the year, affecting the MFP would cause catastrophic effects for actual students," he said.

But the $51.9 million cut the department is bracing for is devastating, nonetheless. It would slash 85 percent of the $60.5 million in state dollars the department has to get through the rest of the budget year.

"It would cripple the Department of Education because it's 85 percent of its budget, and that department, that agency was cut mid-year, and it's been cut once or twice a year for the last several years," said Penny Dastugue, former president of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education also known as BESE.

And now the voucher program that gives parents public dollars to pay for private schooling for their children, as well as payments for early childhood education, are threatened.

"The Department of Education, if we're not talking about the MFP services, basically all the schools in the district including charters, so there's a lot of services that they provide that could be affected," said Bloom.

And then there is the state testing that may not be funded.

"Right now those would be the ACT assessments for high school students, and then the end-of-year assessments that determine whether or not a student, the accountability assessments that determine whether a student is prepared to go on to the next grade, and those need to occur, and occur sooner rather than later," said Dastugue.

"It's huge, obviously, for the students to advance to the next year, for them to not be interrupted by this cut is extremely important," Bloom said.

The full state Senate has yet to weigh in on the cuts to the Department of Education that were approved by House members.

Other school districts have a lot at stake, as well. A spokeswoman for the Jefferson Parish School system said they continue to monitor the ongoing budget process carefully.

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