School districts are in a terrible predicament because legislators refuse to agree on a state budget. Though leaders in both chambers have told The Parents’ Campaign they are committed to full funding, at least one appropriations chairman is sending a different signal to others.
Natalie Chandler, of The Clarion Ledger, reported in her blog on June 1st, “Just got off the phone with Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, who says that ‘Until we reach an agreement, then no decision has been made’ on the issue of fully funding the Mississippi Adequate Education Program with add-ons included. His comments come three days after education advocates sent out a mass e-mail, praising House and Senate negotiators for fully funding the entire MAEP formula, add-ons included.” Sen. Alan Nunnelee’s contact information is: (601)359-3250 (Captiol) (662)680-8671 (Home) (662)840-9911 (Work)
Most school districts are not in a position to offer teacher contracts until a state budget is finalized. Teacher contracts are binding, and local districts must honor them once they are issued – whether or not the state comes through with enough funding. A few districts with a strong local tax base have issued contracts to current teachers to keep them from leaving, but even those districts will not fill slots vacated by retiring or moving teachers until a state budget is passed. This leaves even the strongest districts short-staffed. Additionally, districts cannot commit to costly programs or resources that help our children learn until they know what their budgets will be.
Legislators should pass immediately a state budget that protects the integrity of our education system and the futures of our children. To hold this funding hostage to other issues is unacceptable.