School Funding: What State Leaders Aren’t Telling You

Our elected officials have some explaining to do…

In the wake of the most recent round of attacks on the MAEP and excuses for inadequate school funding, The Parents’ Campaign Research and Education Fund (TPCREF) took a hard look at the realities of the state budget.

The result is astounding. The numbers tell a very different story from what our elected officials want us to believe.

Mississippi’s state budget has grown by $2-billion since 2008. How much of that growth was invested in K-12 education? None. In fact, K-12 had a net loss for that seven-year period.

TPCREF compared all state-generated funds in the current state budget for Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) to the state budget for Fiscal Year 2008 (FY08), which was the high-water mark in state revenue prior to the recession. Here are the facts:

  • This year’s state budget is $2.2-billion more than the FY08 state budget. See details.
  • This year’s appropriation for the MAEP, including the teacher pay raise, is $50-million less than the FY08 MAEP appropriation. See details.
  • This year’s total K-12 appropriation is $3.5-million less than the FY08 total K-12 appropriation. See details.
  • The appropriations for most state agencies increased in this same time period, some significantly. Exceptions are K-12 education, the governor’s office, and some special funds agencies. See agency budget graph.
  • The Legislature increased its own budget by 17%. Details here.
  • In FY08, K-12 made up 28% of the state budget; this year it makes up 23%, indicating a drop in priority. See chart.

In addition to the appropriated budget, the state has seen significant revenue surpluses in each of the last four years. In two of those years, there was more than enough surplus revenue to have fully funded the MAEP without taking a single penny from another state agency. See budget surpluses versus MAEP underfunding here.

Click here for back-up materials on the funding information provided.

A broken promise

In 1997, the State Legislature made a promise to Mississippi children, their parents, and their teachers. They promised adequate public school funding in exchange for higher standards and stronger school accountability. Understanding that educators would be held accountable for student outcomes, legislators pledged to fund our schools properly and then get out of the way and let educators do their jobs. They haven’t done either.

Educators and students have lived up to their end of the bargain. The Legislature, on the other hand, has repeatedly broken its promise, increasing mandates on schools while claiming that the money simply wasn’t there to adequately fund them. Clearly, that hasn’t been the case in recent years.

Lead, or get out of the way

Our members tell us that, often, when they appeal to their legislators to adequately fund our schools, the retort from legislators is, “Where do you want us to get the money?” 

The most important job of our Legislature is to figure out how to provide the basic services that we, as taxpayers, expect. Telling voters that they can’t figure that out, or worse, asking taxpayers to do that job for them, is admitting that they aren’t up to the job we elected them to do.

Likewise, telling Mississippians that we must choose between high quality K-12 schools and a high quality system of colleges and universities is absurd. Any strong, thriving state must have both. If this group of folks can’t figure out how to provide the services we expect, they will have a perfect opportunity with next year’s election to step aside and let someone with a better vision for our state take the reins.

It’s time for us to have serious conversations with our legislators about our public schools. They need to understand, unequivocally, that we know the funds are available and we expect our public schools to be adequately funded. With your help, we can hold our elected officials accountable for their words and their actions, and we can ensure a better day for our kids, their schools, and our whole state. Are you in?

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