Students plan walkout as lawmakers deal with budget crisis

Statewide effort aims to protest higher education funding cuts
(Source: Baton Rouge Organizing's Facebook page)
(Source: Baton Rouge Organizing's Facebook page)

(KSLA) - University and college students throughout Louisiana are expected to walk out of classes at noon today in protest of Gov. John Bel Edwards' massive cuts to higher education and the state's TOPS scholarship program.

The Save Our Schools Louisiana Coalition also is encouraging parents, college professors and staffers to take part in the protest. Among supporters of the demonstration is Baton Rouge Organizing, a group that shared a graphic promoting the walkout on its Facebook page and said: "Hey there folks, we need you to share this graphic to make this show of solidarity a statewide success!"

Edwards says higher education funding will need to be cut by $42 million to help address the state's budget crisis.

The "catastrophic cuts" the state's public colleges and universities will face over the next four months could force some campuses to cancel classes or even file for bankruptcy, the governor has warned. The state also is at risk of being unable to pay TOPS scholarships that already have been awarded to students, Edwards has said.

Cuts to the scholarship program impact some 52,000 students.

Meantime, the Louisiana Office of Student Assistance today will continue processing TOPS payment requests. The office had suspended payments to schools due to the pending budget cuts. Students are being encouraged to ensure they're meeting their TOPS requirements.

It's Day 5 of the Louisiana Legislature's special session.

While state lawmakers continue searching for areas to cut spending to address Louisiana's $900 million deficit, Edwards and 3 state representatives, including Rep. Kenny R. Cox, D-Natchitoches, want to put an additional 22-cent tax on a pack of cigarettes.

They say that would raise a quick $16 million to $20 million, depending on whether it goes into effect the 1st of March or the 1st of April.

Supporters see the state's huge need to raise quick money. Opponents note the cigarette tax was raised just a year ago.

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