Last Thursday, Governor Barbour sent a letter to legislative leaders reiterating his position on the budget for the next fiscal year (FY12 or the 2011-2012 school year). His letter encourages legislators to fund the MAEP at $65-million below the level funding recommended by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. His reasoning is that, because schools were sent federal Education Jobs funds in August to allow them to rehire or prevent the layoffs of teachers, schools should have saved that funding to shore up their budgets for next year. The governor’s Executive Budget Recommendation included this $65-million as a portion of the funding that he claimed was “level funding” for the MAEP.
There are two significant concerns about the governor’s position:
“Counting” this $65-million in federal funds as a portion of the state funds required to provide level funding for the MAEP constitutes supplanting and would violate the federal regulations for the Ed Jobs Funds. This could result in Mississippi having to return the federal dollars, which in turn would mean the loss of even more teachers from our classrooms. Governor Barbour says that the federal Ed Jobs funds should be treated like federal stabilization funds. The two are very different, and the federal regulations that define how the funds can be used are very different.
You can’t count the same pot of money twice. The $65-million in Ed Jobs funds that Governor Barbour says should be counted toward state support for K-12 for FY12 was already counted as a substitute for state dollars that were withheld from schools in FY11 (this current school year, 2010-2011). *See below for a detailed explanation of last year’s budget decisions.
*When the State Legislature was debating this year’s budget in the 2010 Legislative Session, they agreed to underfund significantly the MAEP based upon passage of a larger alternate budget (HB1059) that was to go into effect if Mississippi got some budget relief from the feds. The relief came, but Governor Barbour and legislative leaders decided not to enact the larger alternate budget. They argued that, because schools had received the unforeseen Ed Jobs funds, they didn’t need the additional $82-million, even though the MAEP was underfunded by $243-million. Schools did not get the $82-million they had been promised, and now the very same Ed Jobs funding is being used as an excuse to reduce MAEP funding yet again.