State leaders are using a divide and conquer strategy, pitting universities and community colleges against K-12 in their attempt to defeat Initiative 42. Why? So they can continue, undeterred, to cater to the lobbyists pushing for corporate tax breaks and privatization of public education.
Here’s what Initiative 42 opponents hope you’ll forget:
Community college funding is tied to K-12 funding. The community college funding formula calls for mid-level funding, a per-pupil appropriation that is mid-way between K-12 per student funding and university per-student funding. When lawmakers keep K-12 funding low, they lower the amount that state law says should go to community colleges.
There is more than enough state revenue available to provide adequate funding for all levels of education – K-12, community colleges, and universities – but some lawmakers would rather give it away to their corporate cronies than educate our children. Here’s the evidence:
• Budget surpluses – In two of the last four years, there was enough money left over in budget surpluses that was not appropriated to any state agency to have fully funded the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) and increased funding for community colleges and IHL.
• The state leaders who are threatening to cut state agency budgets if Initiative 42 passes have voted repeatedly to slash state revenue:
$400-million in corporate tax breaks passed by the Senate on February 24
$1.7-billion tax cut passed by the House on February 25
$550-million revenue elimination (tax cuts and corporate give-aways) passed by the Senate on March 15 (the same day, the Senate rejected a $25-million increase to the K-12 appropriation)
Lt. Gov. Reeves was quoted at the time as saying that state revenue growth, which has averaged 3 to 4 percent per year, would easily cover the cost of the tax breaks.
Lawmakers have voted to give away hundreds of millions of our tax dollars in the form of tax breaks to the likes of Wal-Mart and other big businesses. These are real dollars, collected from small business owners and taxpayers like you and me, that are handed to wealthy out-of-state corporations whose interests our politicians seem to want to protect.
• In the last four years, funding was sufficient to fill the Rainy Day Fund with more than $400-million and increase appropriations for almost all state agencies. State revenue is projected to continue its climb, and the brimming Rainy Day Fund will not require further large infusions, leaving enough recurring revenue to adequately fund K-12 and increase funding for all levels of education – if lawmakers don’t give it away in corporate tax breaks.
False Threats to K-12 Add-on Programs
As for legislators’ threats to slash resources for K-12 programs that are funded outside of the MAEP, remember that Initiative 42 does not mention the MAEP – it requires that the Legislature fund an adequate public school system. Vo-tech, gifted programs, special education, and transportation are among the programs defined in state law as contributing to an adequate education, and funding for those programs was factored into the initial Legislative Budget Office analysis of the cost to the state were Initiative 42 to pass. Passage of Initiative 42 would safeguard these programs, not endanger them.
Of course, the whole “cuts to state budgets” threat is a lie anyway. Initiative 42 does not call for immediate full funding. Every Initiative 42 petition signed by nearly 200,000 Mississippians called for a phase-in of adequate funding (see the petition here).
Contempt for Public School Supporters
The level of contempt that some of our elected officials have shown for public school students, parents, and supporters is astonishing. The latest example is the refusal of Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn to release emails and other correspondence, sent using state resources and on state time, related to their campaign against Initiative 42. Their use of state resources to campaign against Initiative 42 would be a violation of state law.
Passage of Initiative 42 will not require budget cuts to other agencies, and it will not necessitate a tax increase. An adequately-funded K-12 system is not a threat to community colleges or universities. The threat to all levels of education in Mississippi is state leadership that does not value education. Legislative leaders are using threats and intimidation to lure the community college and university communities into voting against themselves. We hope that education leaders at all levels will avoid falling into these traps.
Our choice in November is between children and corporate lobbyists. We’re choosing our children; we hope you will, too. If you’re ready to help, like us on Facebook and share our posts, retweet our tweets (@ParentsCampaign), and send us an email with “I’m in” as your subject line! Together, we can stand up to the powers that be and ensure that our kids have a future brightened by the prospect of adequately funded schools at all levels.