On Tuesday, September 30, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) will begin a four-day series of meetings that will set in motion the state budgeting process. School funding through the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) is likely to be hotly debated, and our kids’ futures are hanging in the balance.
Legislators are already hearing from special interests that want access to the funds that state law says should be used to educate our children. Our elected officials need to know that Mississippi taxpayers expect them to keep their promise to provide our kids the resources required for an adequate education.
The JLBC is a committee of six representatives and six senators, led by House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, that is charged with making a state budget recommendation for the coming year. Their recommendation, due by December 15, will serve as a baseline for the broader budget debate that will be held during the legislative session.
There are several things that legislators need to know as they begin crafting the budget that will determine funding for our children’s schools. A brief overview of the facts and statistics is below. The bottom line, though, is this: revenue is up, money is available – reserve/rainy day funds are full to the point of overflowing, and the time to fund our schools adequately is now.
This is a great opportunity for you to let the members of the JLBC know that adequate resources are critical to the success of our schools and our children and that the MAEP should be fully funded in the 2015 Legislative Session. You can contact them at the numbers listed below:
House Speaker Philip Gunn, Chair
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Vice Chair
Sen. Terry C. Burton
Sen. Eugene (Buck) Clarke, Chair, Senate Appropriations Committee
Sen. Joey Fillingane
Sen. Dean Kirby
Sen. Willie Simmons
Rep. Angela Cockerham
Rep. Herb Frierson, Chair, House Appropriations Committee
Rep. John L. Moore, Chair, House Education Committee
Rep. Jeffery C. Smith
Rep. Greg Snowden, House Speaker Pro Tempore
Rep. Preston E. Sullivan
Student achievement in Mississippi has increased steadily, with fewer failing schools and more schools rated A and B. Graduation rates have improved, and ACT and national test scores have continued to creep up, despite chronic underfunding. Standards have been ramped up significantly, and students and teachers are working overtime to make Mississippi more competitive. Children and educators are keeping their end of the bargain. It’s time for legislators to keep theirs.
- State revenue has increased significantly for the past four consecutive years; the increase in state revenue in each of the last three years exceeded 5 percent, or more than $250-million per year.
- The state’s investment in education has not kept pace with the increase in revenue. Over the past four years, state revenue has increased by 12 percent while the MAEP appropriation has increased by only 6 percent. Read more here.
- Since 2011, other state agencies and programs have had their budgets increased at the expense of Mississippi school children; the state budget as a whole has grown at twice the rate of the MAEP.
- Even with the teacher pay raise included, the MAEP appropriation for this year is $50-million below what the appropriation was for the 2007-2008 school year, though state revenue is higher than it was in 07-08.
- Poverty is the number one indicator of students being at risk of school failure, and Mississippi has the nation’s highest rate of children in poverty.
- Children living in poverty require more resources than their more affluent peers to give them the same opportunity for success. Therefore, Mississippi should be spending more per student on public education than any other state. Instead, we spend less per student than almost every other state.
The JLBC will hear each state agency’s budget request September 30-October 3. The Mississippi Department of Education will make its case for adequate school funding on Tuesday, September 30.
Mississippi children need your help to ensure that they get the same shot at a bright future that children in other states have been afforded for decades. Your phone call to the members of the JLBC could make the difference.