Response to Governor Barbour’s Executive Budget Recommendation for FY2011

Governor Barbour’s FY11 budget recommendation calls for funding the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) at a level that is $237-million, or 10.9%, below the FY10 (current year) appropriation.  The Mississippi Department of Education has estimated that the cost to adequately fund schools in the coming year, according to the MAEP formula, will be approximately $61-million above the current-year cost.  Therefore, the governor’s budget proposal would actually underfund the MAEP by almost $300-million or 14%.

The Parents’ Campaign will address 3 of Governor Barbour’s recommendations for FY11:

  • Reducing the number of school districts by 1/3 through school district consolidation
  • Having local school districts draw down their fund balances to cover his proposed 14% cut in MAEP
  • Cutting Add-on programs by 68%

School District Consolidation
Governor Barbour has proposed reducing the number of Mississippi school districts from the current 152 to 100 or fewer in an effort to reduce costs.  He has said that he will appoint a Blue Ribbon Commission to study the issue and develop a plan for consolidating school districts.  Additionally, some experts suggest that student achievement can be improved in low performing districts through school district consolidation.  We at The Parents’ Campaign agree that the issue should be studied carefully to determine if, indeed, significant savings or improvement in student achievement can be achieved through district consolidation or consolidation of services.  Click here to read a summary of our findings on school district consolidation.

Using School District Fund Balances to Cover the 14% Cut in FY11 MAEP Funding
In his Executive Budget Recommendation, Governor Barbour stated that school districts would be able to cover all but 1% of his recommended 14% cut to FY11 MAEP funding by using their fund balances.  Click here to read about school district fund balances and why this piece of the governor’s recommendation is in error and not feasible.

Cutting Add-on Programs by 68%
Governor Barbour’s Executive Budget Recommendation for FY11 included a 68% cut to Add-on programs: Gifted Education, Special Education, Vocational Education, and Transportation.  Two of these categories receive approximately $176-million in federal funds which would likely be lost were the Legislature to include such a cut in the FY11 budget.  Click here to read about the effects at 68% cut would have on these programs and the education provided Mississippi children.

The current economic climate demands that we consider every possible way to ensure that schools – and all state agencies – operate efficiently, and it will be incumbent upon local school boards and school leaders to ensure that they are doing everything possible to maximize resources and minimize expenses, all the while ensuring that our children receive a high quality education that will allow them to compete well in a downsized economy.  It is a difficult task and one that many of Mississippi’s school leaders have been doing exceptionally well for many years.

As our Legislature crafts the state budget for FY11, The Parents’ Campaign believes that it will be vitally important to ensure that we invest most heavily in areas that will position our state for success, during and following the current recession.  We believe education should be the number 1 priority, and we believe the budget should reflect that priority.  Now, more than ever, it is critical that our state make good on its promise to provide all of our children a free and appropriate education – the only insurance they will have in times of diminishing opportunity.

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