Wednesday, April 12, 2006



Capitol News Bureau

The initial cut last fall trimmed $1.5 million from the $10 million program, George Silbernagel, House budget analyst, told the House Appropriations Committee. Blanco wants to trim another $1 million for a total reduction of $2.5 million.

“How they make it up would be up to them,” Silbernagel said.Rep. Don Cazayoux, D-New Roads and a member of the panel, said he wants state budget officials to take another look at the issue. Such reductions put pressure on private schools to boost tuition, he said.

“It is draconian,” Cazayoux said.

The issue surfaced during the committee’s review of planned spending for public schools, including $2.7 billion in basic aid. The package also includes pay raises of $1,500 for public schoolteachers. No votes were taken Tuesday.

State Superintendent of Education Cecil Picard, whose agency oversees about 630,000 public schools students statewide, told the committee that the initial, $1.5 million cut last year in reimbursements to private schools was part of a 9.5 percent education budget reduction ordered by the governor after the storms.

Picard said that Blanco, in planning her budget for the year that begins on July 1, initially suggested a reduction in state aid for textbooks and school supplies. He said state education officials told the administration such reductions were impossible.

Blanco then proposed the second, $1 million cut in reimbursements for private schools. Picard said state education officials appealed that suggestion to state budget officials but were turned down.

The average tuition at Catholic elementary schools in the Baton Rouge area is $2,394 per year, Loar said. The average charge for high schools is $4,172. Loar said higher tuition charges can drive students into public schools, which increases state costs.

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