Governor Barbour’s Executive Budget Recommendation for FY2011 included a 68% cut to K-12 Add-ons, state funding for Special Education, Vocational Education, Gifted Education, and Transportation. According to House Education Chairman Cecil Brown, a CPA and former director of the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration, these cuts would jeopardize as much as $176-million in federal funds that Mississippi receives to support Special Education and Vocational Education programs.
Maintenance of Effort for Special Education and Vocational Education
Most federal funding comes with a “maintenance of effort” provision – a requirement that states continue at a certain level their support of the programs for which they are receiving federal funds. A 68% cut in state funding for Add-ons would put Mississippi well below the level of state funding required to meet our maintenance of effort provisions for Special Education and Transportation. This would likely mean the loss of all federal funding that is subject to the maintenance of effort provisions associated with those programs – an estimated $15-million in Vocational Education funds and $161-million in Special Education funds, or a total of $176-million.
The U.S. Department of Education typically gives some flexibility or leeway to states regarding the maintenance of effort provision when state revenues fall to a level that requires across-the-board cuts, but that leeway is based upon what is seen as reasonably and equitably applied to all state agencies. For example, if all state agencies are cut 5%, the U.S. Department of Education would probably allow a 5% cut to Add-ons without withdrawing federal funds. A 68% cut to Add-ons, however, so far exceeds the level of cuts applied across the board that it is highly unlikely to be seen as reasonably and equitably applied.
Gifted Education programs are designed to challenge and engage children who are intellectually gifted and who should be working at a level above what is typical for their peers. Gifted Education receives no additional state funding outside of what is appropriated through Add-ons, and a 68% cut would be devastating to those programs.
The amount of funding allocated to school districts for fuel and transportation costs has not increased at all since 1993. Gasoline prices have increased substantially since that time; therefore, even when the Add-ons are fully funded, districts must use MAEP and local dollars to fund the balance of their transportation costs. A 68% cut to that funding would make it virtually impossible for districts to operate buses without eating into MAEP/classroom expenditures significantly.