The harsh reality is that Louisiana ranks fourth lowest among all states in terms of total spending on public school facilities and is one of only nine states that does not provide state funding for school buildings. The Cowen Institute believes that all children should have the opportunity to go to school in a high quality facility. In New Orleans, the School Facilities Master Plan (SFMP) is in the process of being implemented by the Orleans Parish School Board and the Recovery School District. The $700 million first phase of the plan is underway and FEMA recently awarded the remainder of the $1.8 billion settlement. The SFMP has six phases altogether and it is unclear how far the FEMA funding will go. The Cowen Institute was instrumental in writing the policy that created the Master Plan Oversight Committee (MPOC) and will provide expert advice throughout implementation. Additionally, we work to monitor all changes made to the SFMP, which include substantial budget increases to projects and movement of schools from one phase to another.
On a statewide level, the Cowen Institute works to bring about improved facilities through increased state involvement in facilities planning, funding, and maintenance. Many local districts lack the resources to provide safe, quality facilities, so we have worked with state legislators to create a Louisiana Statewide Education Facilities Authority within the Department of Education to provide funding, coordination, assistance, and oversight for the repair, renovation, and construction of public school facilities. See below for the history of this effort.
The Cowen Institute also works on other school facilities issues, including recently co-hosting a statewide summit on school siting with the National Trust for Historic Preservation which explored how best practices related to school facilities can be implemented in Louisiana. Finally, we cover facilities in our State of Public Education in New Orleans series, detailing the history, current status, and road ahead for the School Facilities Master Plan.
Click here for general information about public schools facilities across Louisiana.
History of School Facilities Legislation
As part of its policy agenda, the Cowen Institute is working with state legislators to create a Louisiana Statewide Education Facilities Authority within the Department of Education to provide funding, coordination, assistance, and oversight for the repair, renovation, and construction of public school facilities. In addition, we are working to create a revolving loan fund for school maintenance as part of the statewide school facilities authority.
Legislative Session 2011
The Cowen Institute did not continue to support School Facilities Authority legislation in the 2011 legislative session. The Cowen Institute strongly believes it is good policy and should be enacted, but realizes its final passage is not feasible given the present political environment in Louisiana.
Governor Jindal vetoes SB 584 on the basis that he believes school facilities are a local responsibility and there are currently many unmet obligations including roads and deferred maintenance on state buildings.
The House passes SB 584, the Senate approves the final version, and the bill is sent to Governor Jindal for his signature.
SB 584 passes on the Senate floor and is assigned to the House Education Committee.
Representative Walt Leger and Senator Karen Carter Peterson introduce legislation to create a Statewide School Facilities Authority, HB 210 and SB 584. On April 29, SB 584 was heard before the Senate Education Committee and was passed unanimously.
Senator Karen Carter Peterson spoke at the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting on the importance of providing state funding to local districts for school facilities.
Senator Cheryl Gray Evans and Representative Karen Carter Petersontook a second annual statewide school facilities trip highlighting the needs of school facilities around the state. They went to schools in Baton Rouge and Lafayette. Click here for the press release.
Senator Cheryl Gray Evans and Representative Karen Carter Peterson speak at BESE on the importance of state funding for school facilities.
-The House Appropriations Committee fails to pass SB 90 out of Committee.
-The legislature passes the School Facilities Fund.
-Governor Jindal signed the School Facilities Fund into law. It is now Act 226.
Senator Cheryl Gray Evans and Representative Karen Carter Peterson introduce Senate Bill 90 (SB 90) and House Bill 689 (HB 689), which creates a statewide School Facilities Authority and a School Facilities Authority Fund.
Senator Cheryl Gray Evans held a hearing in the Local and Municipal Affairs Committee on school facilities in Louisiana. Superintendents from across the state, the Arkansas Director of School Facilities and a national expert spoke about facilities needs. [more info]
Representative Karen Carter Peterson and Senator Cheryl Gray Evans took a statewide school facilities trip highlighting the needs of school facilities around the state. Press release [more info]
WAFB-TV clip [more info]
Alexandria Town Talk story [more info]
Governor Jindal vetoes SB 632 on the basis that he believes school facilities are a local responsibility and there are currently many unmet obligations including roads and deferred maintenance on state buildings.
Jindal veto statement for SB 632 [more info]
Jindal veto statement for HB 962 [more info]
Legislature unanimously passes SB 632 and HB 962.
Senator Cheryl Gray and Representative Karen Carter Peterson introduce Senate Bill 632 (SB 632) and House Bill 962 (HB 962), which creates a statewide School Facilities Authority and a School Facilities Authority Fund. [more info on HB 962]
Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) passes the report created by the HCR 230 task force with the recommendation to form a School Facilities Authority in Louisiana. [more info]
House Concurrent Resolution 230 (HCR 230) passes and creates a task force to study best practices relative to the assessment of the public school facilities. [more info]