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LA schools among the nation's most 'chronically underfunded'

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author Mark Moran, Producer-Editor

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Thursday, January 25, 2024   

A new report finds Louisiana is among a handful of states that chronically underfunds its K-12 schools.

Public school funding is largely left up to the states, which means the quality of education can vary depending on where you live.

A report on the adequacy and fairness of state school finance systems from the Albert Shanker Institute found three-quarters of Louisiana school districts are "chronically underfunded."

Shanker Institute President Mary Cathryn Ricker said school funding comes down to where state lawmakers have placed their priorities for the last two decades.

"This is not something that happened overnight," said Ricker. "This is something that has happened over time, as state legislatures have either divested from funding their public schools, or have chosen more investments in their public schools."

Nationwide, the report says most states are asking public schools to do more with less.

It found 39 states devote a smaller share of their budgets to K-12 public schools than they did in 2006, and estimates this long-term underfunding cost schools over $360 billion between 2016 and 2021.

Critics of public education accuse it of wasting money and being beholden to teachers' unions.

The report says 20% of the nation's school districts with the most inadequate funding are located in just 10 states, including Louisiana.

Report Co-author and University of Miami Professor Bruce Baker said despite mirroring efforts nationwide to improve, Louisiana is still not stepping up to adequately fund its schools.

"It's not a state with a lot of wealth," said Baker, "so you put up 'national average' effort and you've still got 84% of kids in districts without adequate funding."

In all the factors studied in the Shanker Institute report, Louisiana ranks 38th among states. The report suggests states ensure that funding is targeted to schools based on need.




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