Today, the House of Representatives passed the K-12 funding bill, HB 1536, on a unanimous vote with almost no debate.
The bill under-funds the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) by $201-million.
HB 1536 provides an increase in MAEP funding of $107-million over last year, about half of which will go to cover the second phase of the well-deserved pay raise for teachers and what we hope will be a pay raise for teacher assistants.
Here’s the problem…
When you back out what is needed to cover the pay raises, schools will be left with MAEP funding that is below the 2008 pre-recession level, if the House proposal is adopted. In the last few years, legislators have placed an extraordinary number of unfunded mandates on schools. Standards have been ramped up significantly, numerous screenings and assessments have been mandated, and many new requirements have been put in place that carry very high stakes for children. Yet the mandates have not been accompanied by the funding required to implement them, and our children are paying the price.
The state is not even providing enough funding to pay the cost of teacher salaries and benefits in almost half of our school districts. Nearly all of our districts spend 90 percent or more of their state MAEP funds on teacher salaries and benefits, with little to nothing left to cover other classroom costs. See how your district fares here.
It is deceitful for elected officials to claim to have “reformed” education when all they really have done is demand that teachers and students work harder while denying them the resources they need to be successful. The kicker? The resources have been available, they have simply been spent elsewhere.
Today’s state budget is more than $2-billion larger than the FY2008 budget. Legislators tell us that they have done the best they could, that they simply didn’t have the resources to increase K-12 funding any more than they have. And yet, legislators have found the resources to drive the rest of the state budget 30% above 2008 levels while the MAEP has remained below the 2008 level.
It is simply unconscionable that our state has asked our children to sacrifice their futures in order to balance the state budget. Parents are fed up. Teachers are disgusted and disheartened. And state leaders? They are busy blaming educators and children while refusing to hold up their end of the education bargain.
The Good News
…is that our kids have you! And that we have some time before the final budget is adopted. In the next couple of days, look for a comparison of the increase your district would get if the House proposal is adopted versus full funding.
Until then, think about ways that you can join forces with others in your community to encourage your legislators to provide our children the same level of resources that other states provide their kids. I can promise you this, our entire state will benefit if they do. Economic prosperity will never, ever precede a high quality public education system. Education is the only way we will ever pull Mississippi off the bottom.
Don’t forget, the qualifying deadline to run for legislative office is next Friday. Are you happy with your choices?
Thanks so much for all you are doing to give Mississippi kids a shot at a bright future.