Hurricane Recovery Money To Fund Pre-Kindergarten
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Hurricane recovery money will pay for nearly half the cost of Louisiana's 4-year-old pre-kindergarten program.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will shift $33 million in federal Community Development Block Grant money into the LA 4 program in the budget year beginning July 1, the Advocate reports.
The total budget for the program, which served 16,000 students, is $76 million.
Christina Stephens, Division of Administration spokeswoman, said the reason that the state felt it could use the money is because some children served by LA 4 live in areas affected by hurricanes.
The use of the money generated little discussion during the legislative session. Jindal administration officials said they still are uncertain whether approval will be needed from the federal government to spend the dollars on education instead of storm recovery.
Legislative budget leaders expressed surprise that the money, meant to help the state rebuild from hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike, would be shifted into the program. However, the program had relied on $44 million federal stimulus funding in the budget year ending June 30. That money won't be available again next year.
State Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro and the state budget bill's sponsor, said state government cannot continue to cobble together a spending plan with patchwork funding.
He said the state needs to raise new revenue, make real cuts or reduce tax breaks that erode revenue.
"You've got to find another revenue source for it ... We've got some decisions to make," Fannin said.
State Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles and a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said he is surprised the flexibility exists to direct the recovery dollars to LA 4. He said he is concerned that the program is relying on temporary dollars.
"To my knowledge this is the first time CDBG money has been used in LA 4," he said. "I hope this is not problematic in the future."
Information from: The Advocate, http://www.theadvocate.com