On June 9, the Louisiana Senate passed a measure directing the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to require every school district in the state to spend 65 percent of its education budget on classroom instruction. The measure passed 36-0, with one senator absent.
The House had earlier passed the provision by a unanimous vote. It does not require action by the governor to take effect.
“The state Senate’s vote in favor of this provision is an outstanding step forward for public schools, teachers, and students in Louisiana,” said Patrick Byrne, advisory chair of First Class Education and developer of the 65 percent proposal. “By re-prioritizing the funding so that 65 cents out of every education dollar goes to the classroom, upwards of $200 million will be available to increase teacher pay and to put more computers and other supplies in the classroom–all without a tax increase,” he said.
Only four states–Maine, New York, Tennessee, and Utah–currently spend at least 65 percent of their money in the classroom. On average, the nation sends 61.5 percent of its education funding to the classroom. The 3.5 percent needed to bring classroom spending up to 65 percent would make a huge difference, providing an additional $13 billion for classroom teaching, according to an April 10 commentary from syndicated columnist George F. Will.
The 65 percent solution has been warmly received by state legislators in Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. Illinois State Sen. Chris Lauzen (R-Aurora) is considering introducing 65 percent legislation next year.
According to a November 2002 Chicago Tribune article, “just 45.8 percent of school budgets statewide [in Illinois] was devoted to teachers, textbooks, and other basic instructional costs in 2000-01.”
— Nancy Salvato
For more information …
To learn how the 65 percent solution would affect classroom instruction in your state, visit the Web site of First Class Education at http://www.firstclasseducation.org.