The Mississippi Department of Education and the State Board of Education presented to the Legislative Budget Committee K-12 education’s budget request for the coming fiscal year. Each year, the Legislative Budget Committee is tasked with crafting a budget recommendation to be used as the baseline for the legislative budget negotiations that take place during the legislative session.
State Superintendent Dr. Burnham reported that, had the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) been fully funded for the current year, the department would actually be requesting a lesser appropriation for the coming year. This is due primarily to three factors:
the request for Gifted Education funding has been reduced to the level necessary to cover only the statutory mandate of 2nd through 6th grade Gifted classes
the request for Special Education funding has been reduced as the number of students referred to those programs has decreased statewide
a low inflation rate being tied to the MAEP formula calculation
The MAEP is underfunded this year by $243-million.
For the coming year, the State Board of Education is requesting full funding of the MAEP and restoration of the $38-million in ad valorem tax reduction funding that was cut this year.
Districts Report Layoffs
In explaining the effects of budget cuts on schools, Dr. Burnham noted that school districts report having to lay off 2,060 personnel statewide in the last year. That number includes the following non-renewals:
– 704 certified teachers
– 792 teacher assistants
– 163 school administrators, librarians, counselors and other certified personnel
– 401 non-certified staff such as custodians, bus drivers, and clerical personnel
The number of layoffs reported does not include positions that were lost due to retirement or other attrition, and so the effect on students is almost surely even greater than these numbers indicate.
Due to gross underfunding of schools, class size is larger statewide; students are getting less individual attention; gifted, intervention and after school programs have been lost; advanced placement courses and electives have been reduced; and teachers have received very little in the way of classroom supply funding. If these circumstances are not reversed, student achievement is bound to suffer, and the positive momentum teachers and students have worked so hard to achieve will be reversed.
While some school districts will use a portion of the $98-million in federal education jobs funding to restore lost teaching positions for the current school year, Governor Barbour has sent school districts two letters encouraging them to reserve those funds for the 2011-2012 school year when the state budget is expected to be extremely tight.
Governor Barbour will submit his Executive Budget Recommendation by November 15th, exactly a month ahead of the December 15th deadline for the Legislative Budget Committee’s recommendation. Our state leaders’ challenge will be to craft a budget that invests enough in education to avoid moving our state backward.