Public school leaders said Friday afternoon that they will ask Gov. Bobby Jindal to call a special session rather than revamp a $3.4 billion spending plan for public school students as the Louisiana House wants.
Penny Dastugue, president of the state Board of Elementary Education and John White, state superintendent of education, made the comments a few hours after a House rebellion on the school spending plan.
The proposal, Senate Resolution 99, provides basic state aid for about 700,000 public school students for the 2012-13 school year.
Officials have said for years that lawmakers can only approve or reject the resolution but cannot change it.
But the House voted 62-38 to strip language from the BESE-approved resolution that would allow for the use of some state school dollars for students’ college expenses if they graduate from high school early.
The House also voted to send the issue back to BESE for changes.
The measure then won narrow House approval and was returned to the Senate, which approved it earlier.
White said he hopes that the Senate will reject the House changes, force the issue into a House-Senate negotiating committee and eventually get the resolution back to where the policy language is part of the plan.
But if the Senate agrees to return the plan to BESE the 11-member panel will urge the governor to call a special session to tackle the issue.
The nearly three-month regular session ends on Monday at 6 p.m.
Dastugue said BESE does not have enough time to meet again and revamp its proposal.
“The timetable necessitates a special session,” Dastugue said.
White, who is the governor’s chief public schools lieutenant, said he has gotten no indication on whether Jindal would agree to a special session.
The House vote is not the first time this year that major differences surfaced between the two chambers.
Some members of the lower chamber have fought for weeks to trim the use of onetime money in the state’s nearly $26 billion operating buget, which funds state services starting on July 1.
Jindal and the Senate disagree.
Final action on the budget is expected this weekend.
The House rebellion on the public school spending plan was led by House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Bel Edwards, D-Amite.
Edwards said it was outrageous that BESE would try to dictate public school policies through a funding formula, which is called the Minimum Foundation Program, or MFP.
“Now look, we are either going to be the Legislature … or we are going to hand it over to the BESE board,” Edwards said of his amendment, which stripped policy language from the spending plan.
But White said it makes sense to use state dollars for high-achieving high school students who graduate early.
In a surprise move, the Louisiana House on Friday morning voted to return a $3.4 billion spending plan for public schools to the state’s top school board.
The measure, Senate Concurrent Resolution 99, now returns to the Senate for consideration of House changes.
If the Senate goes along the vote could spark an emergency meeting of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or BESE, which recommended the package.
State officials have said for years that lawmakers can only approve or reject the public school spending plan but cannot change it.
But the House voted 62-38 to strip some policy language from the funding resolution, which critics said exceeded the authority of BESE.
The change followed a ruling by House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, who said that removing policy language from the resolution did not constitute a change in the spending formula, which is called the Minimum Foundation Program.
The measure provides basic state aid to about 1,300 public schools statewide.
However, it for the first time will also use state aid for some low and middle-income students to attend private and parochial schools through the state’s expanded voucher program.
That issue has made the proposal controversial, as well as the fact that it would mark the fourth consecutive year in which per student spending was frozen.