Louisiana state budget advances with cuts to teacher stipends, summer EBT back in bill

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — A new version of the state’s budget advanced in the legislature that cuts down teacher stipends and reduces early childhood education funding.

The House Appropriations Committee advanced the $38 billion budget. Among some of the changes, lawmakers put back in the $7 million for the federal summer EBT match funding following public outcry for originally opting out of the program.

Not making the cut: the full teacher stipend of years past and all of the originally slated funding for early childhood education.

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The funding formula calculated by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for the K-12 public schools came out to about $90 million over what the executive budget planned for. To cover that, the legislators picked the two pots of money.

One early childhood education pot would be cut by about $24 million to make up the difference. Immediately, early childhood advocates called out their need for the money.

“It’s approximately 1,943 children that will lose access to quality early care and education. I understand the budget is big and you have to make decisions, but we just wanted to make you aware that’s the number of children that will lose access. There are currently 6,500 children on the waitlist for child care assistance,” said Libbie Sonnier, executive director of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children.

Teacher stipends will be cut down to $1,300 for teachers and a smaller one-time payment for support staff. In the current budget, teachers are getting $2,000 and support staff are getting $1,000.

“I think we do need to get it back up and I think we need to seriously be concerned that this is a stipend and not salary,” State Rep. Barbara Freiberg.

There was also testimony from disability advocates who did not see their requested $10 million in the budget to help hire overnight caregivers. Lawmakers emphasized there is still a chance for changes in the budget.

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“But the budget is not finished. This is the first step in the process,” said State Rep. Jack McFarland.

The legislature also has to keep in mind the estimated $500 million shortfall expected next year when the half-cent sales tax rolls off.

The budget now heads on to the full House and has to make it through the Senate. The Revenue Estimating Committee is scheduled to meet in the next month to get the latest update on the state’s revenue. There is a possibility of additional money being found to help fill some of the potential gaps.

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