Governor Bryant’s Executive Budget Recommendation for the coming year underfunds the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) by roughly $260-million. While he does recommend covering the $52-million cost of the second phase of the teacher pay raise, his budget does not put a single additional penny toward full funding of the MAEP.
In the narrative portion of his budget recommendation, Governor Bryant opposes fully funding the MAEP formula, insisting, “We must … hold failing districts accountable before raising their funding.” Mississippi has only one school district rated “F,” and that district (Hinds County Agricultural High School) is to be absorbed into the Hinds County School District in July of 2015. Is one failing school district, that will no longer exist in a matter of months, sufficient reason to deny all Mississippi children the resources they need to have a shot at a bright future?
Our public schools have shown remarkable improvement in recent years, showing gains in student achievement on virtually every measure, including state assessments and the ACT, despite repeatedly being denied adequate resources and having additional mandates and regulations heaped upon them by the Legislature. Governor Bryant would be hard pressed to find another state agency that even approaches the level of accountability to which public schools are held.
We should be celebrating and rewarding the hard work and dedication of Mississippi teachers and students, urging them on to higher levels of achievement. Instead, elected officials denigrate public schools and withhold from our children the school funds promised to them in state law. Is it any wonder that the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks Mississippi 49th in “Providing Children Opportunities for Success?”
Aside from its lack of support for schools’ operational funding, Governor Bryant’s budget includes $15-million for implementation of the literacy initiative, $3-million for the Early Learning Collaborative Grant Program, and full funding of the National Board Certified Teacher Program.
The governor’s budget proposal, due by November 15 each year, is simply a recommendation. While it typically has little impact on the final budget outcome, it provides the executive branch an opportunity to make its priorities clear.