On Tuesday, August 31st, Governor Barbour issued a statement saying that the leadership of the House and Senate had agreed with him not to send to school districts the $82-million that had been promised them in HB1059. The money was contingent upon action by the U.S. Congress to give states Medicaid funding relief. Congress did its part to relieve state budgets, but apparently state leaders have abandoned their own commitment to Mississippi’s school children and their parents. (Click here to see Governor Barbour’s statement.)
The state funding relieved by the Medicaid dollars will, instead, be held in reserve. There is no guarantee that the funding will be re-appropriated to K-12.
A number of school districts have said that they will have to raise taxes at the local level if the promised funding is not forthcoming this year.
In the last legislative session, House and Senate leaders won support of the budget bill that included drastic under-funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) in part by promising an alternate budget that would go into effect once Congress passed a bill that would free up what was expected to be as much as $187-million in state funding. House Bill 1059, the alternate budget bill, appropriated $82-million of that funding to public schools.
Congress passed that legislation, though it was a scaled-down version, saving Mississippi $127-million in state funds rather than the expected $187-million. Though they could re-appropriate the reduced funds on a pro-rata basis, Mississippi’s legislative leaders are apparently using the reduction from $187-million to $127-million as an excuse to back out of their commitment to enact the alternate budget.
We at The Parents’ Campaign believe it is unconscionable that state leaders would fail to keep the commitment they made to the members of their chambers and to Mississippi schoolchildren, their parents, and their teachers. Click here to see the statement issued by The Parents’ Campaign.
We agree that Fiscal Year 2012 will be difficult, but legislative leaders knew the degree of difficulty FY12 would bring when they committed to the alternate budget 4 months ago. Schools and school children are suffering terrible consequences now, and the decision to withhold these funds will only exacerbate the problems being felt at the local level.
School leaders, teachers, parents and children are doing all they can to mitigate the negative effects that the recession is having on our schools. We are hopeful that our legislative leaders will see fit to do their part by keeping the promise they made to reduce the gaping hole between what is adequate funding for schools and the current level of funding.
See The Clarion-Ledger article on the failure to enact the alternate budget.