Senate approves funds for early childhood ed.

John Dupont
Gov. John Bel Edwards, who is advocating spending budget surplus funds towards teacher and support worker pay raises with additional funding for schools.

Early childhood education will receive extra funding in a revised budget the Louisiana Senate approved Monday.

The measure in the state’s $30 billion budget would funnel $20 million to early childhood education, while the spending plan would stay in tune with recommendations from Gov. John Bel Edwards on the increase in pay for teachers and the Minimum Foundation Program.

The additional revenue for early childhood education would work toward improvement on an area of instruction sorely lacking in Louisiana.

State Board of Education Superintendent John White called the current landscape of early childhood education "deplorable" in a speech he made to the Press Club of Baton Rouge. Louisiana ranks 50th in the nation in early childhood education.

Improvements in early childhood education – which would target youngsters four and under – could improve test scores, help with discipline and ultimately curb the rate of crime among juveniles. It could also help improve chances of moving past a life of poverty, he has said.

Revenue from the proposed sports betting or other forms of gambling could also funnel additional money into early childhood education.

The budget also follows a recommendation from Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne that would keep the pay hikes for teachers and support personnel at the original recommendations from Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Under his recommendation, the increased compensation would total $1,000 per year for teachers and $500 annually for support personnel, such as cafeteria workers, custodians and others.

It would also retain the current increase of 1.3975 percent in the Minimum Foundation Program, the system by which the state determines funding for each public school district.

The plan also tacks an additional $4.3 million to LSU to cover increased expenses from mandated costs.

"The university actually pays back to the state more in mandated costs than we give them to operate, which leaves them upside down," Dardenne said. "This is significantly a start for dollars that have

not been there in the past for universities."

The budget will take center stage as the session moves toward its final week. The session ends June 6.