Governor Barbour has indicated recently that he intends to cut state agency budgets to address the state’s revenue shortfall and that he is likely to start with K-12 education. We at The Parents’ Campaign believe cutting school budgets first would be bad policy for a number of reasons, and we urge Governor Barbour to take another look at the options available to him.
Schools are already compensating for the fact that the cuts made to their budgets last spring were not restored as had been promised. As a result, some districts have seen an increase in class size, a reduction in academic and extracurricular offerings, and a delay in repairing worn school facilities. Cutting current-year school budgets would worsen these trends, and student achievement would likely suffer. Mississippi continues to invest less in our children’s education than almost any other state, with our per-pupil expenditure continuing to rank between 49th and 50th every year.
Through August of this year, revenue was $32-million below projections with August providing a much better showing than either June or July. Mississippi’s Rainy Day Fund sits with $270-million in its coffers, $29-million of projected revenue was set aside in the last legislative session for needs such as these, and approximately $48.6-million of Mississippi’s federal ARRA stabilization dollars remain available to fill the revenue gap. That totals over $347-million that is currently available to make up what is now a $32-million shortfall, and Mississippi is poised to collect an additional $129-million in stabilization funds to augment our state budget in the coming legislative session. Certainly a portion of these funds should be reserved for what promise to be difficult years ahead, but it serves the long-term interest of our state to tap these funds, at least in part, befo! re asking our school children to compromise the quality of their education.
It is critical that we protect the academic integrity of our state’s education system. Investing in our children’s education is the best investment our state could possibly make. The Legislature went to great lengths to do so during the budgeting process. If Mississippi is to keep moving forward, we need to continue to see the same commitment from our governor.
Please join me in urging Governor Barbour to reconsider his budget cuts. You can contact Governor Barbour at 601-359-3150. Our school children and our state’s future depend upon it.