Today, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) announced its budget recommendation for Fiscal Year 2023, the budget to be crafted in the legislative session that begins January 4, 2022.
The JLBC is made up of six each Mississippi Senators and Representatives and led by the Lt. Governor and House Speaker. The committee’s budget recommendation is not binding but is considered a starting point for budget negotiations that will take place during the legislative session. While the recommendation is assumed to be a snapshot of the Legislature’s priorities, typically it reflects only those priorities on which the two chambers can agree.
Here’s what we learned from the JLBC budget recommendation:
• The budget recommendation does not include a teacher pay raise
• It does include pay raises for a number of other state employees
• Five state agency budgets are highlighted for budget increases, but notably absent from the “Increased Funding” slide is public education
• It recommends reduced funding for Child Protective Services, community colleges, and universities
• Mississippi has more money than our state has ever had before or likely will again, due to the tremendous influx of federal stimulus funds
• The recommendation leaves $4.4-billion unallocated, $1.8-billion of which is federal pandemic recovery funding
Today, Speaker Gunn agreed with Lt. Governor Hosemann that Mississippi likely would never see this level of financial largess again, and yet he used his comments to push for eliminating the income tax – a nearly $2-billion hit to the state budget. Meanwhile, Senate Education Chairman DeBar is traveling the state promoting better teacher pay.
Gunn alleged that the tax cut is due because, “We have done everything. We have funded all of government.”
I beg to differ. The MAEP is underfunded to the tune of $272-million this year alone, and teachers continue to wait for their long-promised decent salaries.
Neither the teacher pay raise nor the income tax elimination was reflected in the budget recommendation, an indication that these are sticking points for the joint House and Senate committee.
Our teachers have put their own health and that of their families at risk to ensure that our children get the best possible education, even through a raging pandemic. They have pulled double duty to cover others’ classrooms and responsibilities when their colleagues fall ill, increasing exponentially their own workloads in the process. They have had their integrity questioned by legislators who believe, wrongly, that politicians should dictate how and what teachers teach. And yet they continue going to the mat for our kids every day, employing every strategy in the book and then some to recover children’s learning opportunities that were lost to COVID-19. They are exhausted – and so dreadfully underpaid that many of them go to yet another workplace when they leave school – working two or even three jobs just to put food on the table for their families.
Mississippi’s teacher shortage is worsening by the day, with some throwing in the towel before their contracts end, despite it costing them their teaching licenses. Superintendents fear they won’t be able to fill their teacher vacancies in the coming year. Mississippi will pay dearly – our children most of all – if this Legislature doesn’t make teachers its very top priority, demonstrated by a pay raise significant enough to improve noticeably their standard of living.
Teachers, please attend Chairman DeBar’s final listening session in Madison this Thursday at 5:30, either in person or virtually, and make your voices heard!
Parents, please support your teachers by letting your legislators know that you want them to pass a teacher pay raise – not an income tax cut.
The 2022 Legislative Session is just weeks away. Our kids – and our teachers – are counting on us, and together, we’ve got this!