$40 million oil bonanza for public schools attracts little in the way of public input

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By Jessica Williams, The Lens staff writer |

Ho hum. Another day, another $40 million.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education invited comment from the public Wednesday on how to spend a chunk of trust fund money that has topped out at that amount in recent years. The Baton Rouge meeting lasted all of 15 minutes, mainly because scarcely a soul showed up.

At issue: the allocation of proceeds from the Louisiana Quality Trust Fund, also known as 8(g) funds. The fund collects interest thrown off by the state’s 27-percent share of federal revenues from offshore oil production all along the outer continental shelf.

The annual interest on the Louisiana fund — up to $40 million — is then distributed by the state Department of Education. More than 7,000 projects, ranging from preschool programs to teacher certification to standardized testing, have been funded since the trust was established in 1986.

The sparsely attended meeting drew only one comment card — perhaps just as well, given that BESE’s next committee meeting was scheduled within a half hour.

BESE staffers said the low turnout was nothing new.

“Historically, public participation during these 8(g) hearings has been low, so public input today for this hearing was not unusual,” Catherine Pozniak, executive director for BESE, said in an email to The Lens. “A second public hearing on the allocation of 8(g) funds is not planned.”


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