More State Funding Available

The Legislature learned today that it has more money available to spend on state services.

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee met this afternoon and revised the revenue estimate for Fiscal Year 2016. This revenue estimate is what next year’s budget (state spending) is based upon.

The committee acknowledged an additional $30-million that can now be added to the pool of money eligible to be budgeted for the coming year. The funding available in budget negotiations thus far has been limited by artificial constraints placed upon the process by joint House and Senate rules adopted in 2012. The process allows funds to be transferred into and out of accounts (the great shell game) and restricts the ability of rank-and-file legislators to tap into revenue that has been transferred into accounts deemed ineligible for appropriation.

The great shell game is how the Legislature turns recurring revenue into untouchable “one-time” money. In two of the last four years, the recurring revenue that the legislative leadership refused to acknowledge was more than enough to fully fund the MAEP.

During conference negotiations, happening now through this weekend, all revenue is on the table for consideration. This means legislators have another opportunity in the next few days to give school districts a sizeable increase in the MAEP appropriation, which they need just to keep their heads above water.

Ask your legislators to ensure that funding for the MAEP is increased significantly.

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

Capitol Switchboard: 601.359.3770

Speaker Philip Gunn  Capitol: 601.359.3300

Lt. Governor Reeves  Capitol: 601.359.3200

With the K-12 funding bill due to be signed by the governor today, legislators’ remaining option for adding funds to next year’s school budgets comes through the Budget Transfer Bill, which won’t be finalized until this weekend. That is good news for school districts that find themselves out of funding options to meet the needs of the students being educated in their classrooms every day.

Last week, the Senate ended negotiations on school funding by concurring with the House’s first-round K-12 budget bill and sending the bill on to the governor. In doing so, they surprised the House leadership and members, who assumed that the revenue estimate would be raised, making more money available to appropriate, and that some of it would go to public schools as part of final budget negotiations.

Consider this:

HB 1536, the school funding bill that was sent to the governor, under-funds the MAEP by $201-million. Though it provides a total increase in MAEP funding of $106.7-million, $55-million of that will be required to cover phase two of the teacher pay raise and a pay raise for teacher assistants. That leaves about $50-million statewide to cover other rising costs, among them the annual salary STEP increase that teachers get with each additional year of service. In many districts, the cost of the STEP increase is more than the additional funding that districts will get outside of that required for the pay raises.

This has been the case for years, causing districts to lose ground on their budgets annually. They have used up their reserves and cut programs to the bone, and now, for the first time since recovering from the recession, districts are again talking about having to lay off personnel. Schools are so dramatically under-funded that, in almost half of school districts, the state MAEP funding they receive will not even cover the cost of their teacher salaries and benefits. Click here to compare the increase your district will get via HB 1536 to what you would get with full funding.

The MAEP funding beyond that required for the pay raise in HB 1536 is less than the MAEP funding schools received in 2008. State revenue has hit a new record high in every year since 2011, increasing by nearly 20 percent, and yet our children’s education is funded below the 2008 level.

So what happened to all the extra money? Click here to find out.

Our kids need your legislators’ help. If additional MAEP funding is not appropriated, their teachers will have even fewer resources – and less time per child due to overcrowded classrooms – to prepare them to compete with their peers in other states. 

Please ask your legislators to stand up for our children and their schools. The money is there. They simply have to cast a vote to invest it in our public schools. The formula is not broken. Every child in every school district is allotted the very same MAEP base student cost less the appropriate local contribution. That’s fair and equitable and morally sound – and the only way to ensure that every Mississippi child has a shot at a good education. But only if the formula is fully funded. What kind of person would want to take that from a child?

It’s time for legislators to stop making excuses and invest in our schools. Please forward this email and ask your friends and family to call, text, tweet, and Facebook. And if you’ve had it with state leaders who refuse to support our children’s education, click here to see what other fed-up parents are doing about it. Join the movement, and let’s get this done for our kids!

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