Friends, we’ve got real heroes in our classrooms – and our legislators have noticed.
These days you can find members of the education committees at the State Capitol poring over drafts of bills aimed at shoring up our over-worked and under-paid teachers and chipping away at our teacher shortage crisis. Or looking in every nook and cranny for extra funds to invest in a pre-k system that needs to reach more children.
As for the massive tax cut being pushed by Gov. Reeves? You’ll have to show them the money first. That is, the money to fill the gaping hole it would blow in the state budget.
When Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann was asked by the Jackson Free Press whether he supports phasing out the income tax, his response was refreshingly pragmatic: “I don’t print money. We have to have enough funds to pay for highway patrol, education, and all the other things we pay for as a state.”
That’s music to the ears of the thousands of public school supporters who are tired of empty campaign promises from public officials. We are ready for a real investment in our public schools.
Gov. Reeves claims that stripping away a full third of the state’s General Fund – and all the services those funds provide us – would somehow make our state more livable. He might want to take a lesson from Kansas. Former Gov. Brownback promised Kansans the same thing when he pushed through the elimination of their state income tax in 2012-2013. It was a catastrophe.
In the years following the tax cut, Kansas lagged neighboring states with similar economies in nearly every major category: job creation, unemployment, gross domestic product, tax collections… Over the next four years, the state suffered nine rounds of budget cuts, three credit downgrades, and what The Atlantic called “an ongoing atmosphere of fiscal crisis.” School budgets were decimated, forcing districts to eliminate programs, cut maintenance, phase out teaching positions and other staff, and enlarge class sizes. Some districts ended the school year early as they ran out of funds to operate. In 2017, under immense pressure from furious constituents, the Kansas Legislature rolled back the cuts, overriding Gov. Brownback’s veto and restoring a three-bracket income tax.
Let’s take a pass on following the Kansas model and stick with a teacher pay raise, more pre-k, and fully funded public schools – things that truly will make our state more livable.
Legislators take a lot of heat. And they rarely get a “thank you.” Reach out over the holiday, and thank your legislators for their service. And be sure to let them know that our children are far more important than any tax cut.
If you’re looking for a real bright spot in an otherwise gloomy year, you can find it here – in the moms, dads, teachers, legislators, and advocates of all stripes who are standing in the gap for our kids, fighting with us for strong public schools and a bright future for every Mississippi child. What a blessing!