Legislators Play High Stakes Politics with Children’s Futures

In an incredibly irresponsible, politically-motivated move, the House passed a bill today that, if enacted, will ensure that our children will never receive adequate school resources. You can see your legislator’s vote here.

HB 1629 removes 30 percent of state general fund revenue by eliminating the entire state income tax, phased out over the course of 15 years. The bill would cut $1.7-billion from the state budget. This year, K-12 education was appropriated 39 percent of the general fund; 39 percent of the $1.7-billion revenue loss means a $663-million annual loss to public education.

Yesterday, the Senate passed its own tax-cut plan, one that would eliminate $382-million from state coffers, mostly through corporate tax breaks. See that vote here. K-12’s hit from the Senate tax cut would be about $150-million.

Click here to see what portion of the revenue losses proposed by the House and Senate would likely be absorbed by your school district and what that could mean in terms of loss of school personnel.

Newspapers around the state have decried the House action as deceptive, unworkable, reckless, fiscally irresponsible, and political pandering. See those editorials here.

Amendments to the House bill were proposed that would require that the income tax cut not go into effect until the MAEP is fully funded and PERS is funded at 80%, among others; all were defeated. See those amendment votes here and here. 

During the House debate, legislators speculated that the real intent of the House tax cut bill was to propose something so ludicrous that many would vote “no,” giving their opponents an issue to campaign on prior to the November election. Some urged fellow legislators not to fall into the trap, asserting that they could vote “yes” to protect themselves, relying on the Senate to kill the horrible bill. Rep. Jeff Smith, who presented the bill, warned legislators that they would “remember this vote.”

Others speculate that this is just an election-year game of one-upmanship, with Gunn and Reeves trying to out-do one another. Whatever the motivation, it shows a complete disregard for the welfare of the people they were elected to serve. It demonstrates a “let them eat cake” attitude as schools remain under-funded by $257-million, roads and bridges crumble, children remain in abusive homes due to too few social workers at the Department of Human Services, Mississippians with mental illnesses fend for themselves without proper care, and state services fall short in countless other ways that diminish the quality of life for Mississippians generally.

Friends, this is how the folks you elected to represent you operate. They tell you that they don’t have sufficient state funding to provide our children the $300-million that is needed to fully fund the MAEP, then they say they have enough to eliminate $1.7-billion from the state budget. At least one of those is not true; I would suggest that neither of those statements is true. When we can’t rely on our legislators to tell the truth, we have a real problem. 

This Friday, February 27, is the deadline to file to run for a legislative seat in the November election. Candidates must file qualifying papers and pay a $15 fee in their party headquarters by 5:00 p.m. on Friday.

Education Committees to Consider Bills Ahead of Tuesday Deadline

Next Tuesday is the deadline for the House education committee to consider Senate bills and for Senate ed to consider House bills. You can check the status of all bills we are tracking here. We are paying particular attention to the following…

Bills being considered in the Senate:

HB 471 – Changes the basis for MAEP funding from average daily attendance to average daily membership. Could be improved by removing the ADA benchmark requirement. Vote YES.

HB 488 – A privatization bill that allows scholarships intended to increase the number of dyslexia therapists in public schools to be used for therapists who work in private special purpose schools; diminishes the goal of increasing the number of dyslexia therapists in public schools. Vote NO.

HB 582 – Pay-raise for teacher assistants. Vote YES.

HB 745 – Improves exemption for children with special needs; amended by the House to allow this year’s administration of the new high-stakes reading test to be a baseline year, with implementation of retentions based upon the test delayed for one year, and to require that third-graders who do not meet the cut score be provided intensive remediation. Vote YES on the bill as passed by the House.

Bills being considered in the House:

SB 2191 – Districts of Innovation. AMEND to remove provision allowing virtual schools (current bill would allow for-profits); should, instead, allow virtual courses.

SB 2302 – Additional supplement for National Board Certified Teachers who teach in geographic critical needs districts. Vote YES.

SB 2695 – Tuition vouchers for children with special needs to attend unaccountable private schools that are not required to provide special education services. Vote NO.

We are also watching the action on the Common Core bills.

You can contact your legislators about these bills at the numbers below. Clearly, they need to hear from voters!

Find contact information for the legislators who represent your school district here.

Capitol Switchboard: 601.359.3770

You can contact Lt. Governor Reeves and Speaker Gunn at these numbers:

Lt. Governor Reeves  Capitol: 601.359.3200

Speaker Gunn  Capitol: 601.359.3300

We are so very grateful for your hard work on these issues. We know that you are sick and tired of having to call your legislators time and again just to get them to do what they promised when they campaigned for office. Our children’s futures are worth it, though, so please hang with us. Our kids are counting on us!  

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