The finance chief for the Louisiana Department of Education had a hard time answering questions Friday about alternate plans for funding the 4,900 low-income elementary and secondary students attending private schools.
Judge Tim Kelley ruled in November that the vouchers couldn’t be paid for through the public school funding formula. The case is headed for the state Supreme Court.
In a Joint Budget Committee meeting, retired school superintendent and state representative J. Rogers Pope grilled Dept. of Education Finance Chief Beth Scioneaux on what happens if the ruling is upheld.
“How do we plan to make up that difference?"
"I don’t really have an answer for that today… It will all depend on the ruling."
"The number that I’m seeing somewhere is in the neighborhood of between $25- and $30 million. Is that correct?"
"Emmmm… Maybe in that ballpark, yes."
The Department of Education is counting on the court ruling being reversed, rather than coming up with a solution for filling the $30 million hole. In a statement, department spokesperson Barry Landry said, that,, "as with any program, the method for funding will be determined through the budgeting processes.”
A new public school funding formula is filed every year with the legislature. The next is due with all other bills, on March 15.