A report in The Advocate today revealed that the Louisiana public school system will ” face a new shortfall of up to $42 million because public school enrollment is higher than expected.” This revelation comes a mere five days after State Superintendent of Education, Paul Pastorek, announced that $147 million in federal stimulus money would be transfered from K-12 public education to fund higher education. It also comes a week after a rally of more than 500 students mobbed the state capitol to demand attention for the plight of higher education.
The report that Jindal had approved the transfer of federal stimulus money from K-12 level education to “shore up colleges and universities,” was bizarre in and of itself. At the time, we commented on the head-scratching nature of the policy, describing the situation as cutting the legs out from under an already anemic structure of Louisiana public education. It was not a substantive solution to what has become a systemic problem. It provided only temporary relief to a much larger issue.
Now, it appears as though the ignorance of this decision has come back to bite Jindal and his administration.
The state’s annual Oct. 1 headcount shows enrollment statewide is about 9,000 students higher than was expected in June, state educators said.
State leaders, who already are grappling with major budget problems, now face a new shortfall of up to $42 million because public school enrollment is higher than expected.
Officials have said that the state is obligated to pay for this “unexpected surge” in enrollment. Only, the surge really shouldn’t be unexpected. Pastorek and others commented that unanticipated increases in student enrollment are not uncommon. So, it seems as though one of two things needed to happen: the administration should have recognized the potential for an enrollment increase and left funding as it was, or someone needed to figure out how to make better estimates.
With regard to the $147 million appropriation:
Rainwater said he did not know if portions of the $147 million fund would be used to pay for larger-than-expected student enrollment.
Where the money would come from if enrollment remains well above estimates is unclear.
“I am not sure,” Rainwater said. “We are going to work with the budget folks and Paul Pastorek’s group,” he said, a reference to the state superintendent of education.
So, it seems that the Jindal Administration will follow its S.O.P and do nothing about a pressing issue. Louisiana has come a long way from its deplorable past record in education, and it has a long way to go still to become truly competitive nationwide. Jindal seems content to allow that progress to go to waste. Not a great legacy to leave behind for a man who aspires to achieve national prestige…