Today’s News from the Capitol

No effort was made in the House today to reconsider the vote on the voucher bill so that it could be amended. The bill now will go back to the Senate, which will vote either to concur with the House changes and send it on to the governor or to invite conference for further work on the bill.

House Turns Academic Standards Decision Over to Commission

Yesterday, Rep. John Moore, reportedly at the urging of Governor Bryant, proposed an amendment to SB 2161 that mandates that the State Board of Education adopt at least 75 percent of the recommendations of the legislatively-created commission tasked with reviewing Mississippi’s education standards and making recommendations to the State Board of Education. Previous versions of the bill gave the State Board latitude to adopt the recommendations that best serve Mississippi students and omit those that don’t. The commission, made up of parents, educators, and other Mississippians appointed by the Governor (2), Lt. Governor (4), Speaker (4), State Board of Education (1), State Superintendent (2), Community College Executive Director (1), and IHL Commissioner (1), would have complete discretion to recommend whatever standards they choose, and the State Board of Education would be required to adopt at least 75 percent of them. State assessments would, presumably, measure mastery of those standards.  

K-12 Funding Bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet acted on the K-12 funding bill (HB 1536). There is no committee deadline for appropriations bills, but the deadline for a floor vote is next Tuesday. That means that the Senate Appropriations Committee will meet to take up the bill either tomorrow or Monday. 

Here are the facts that members of the committee should consider:

  • When Mississippi schools have been fully funded, achievement has improved; when funding has fallen short, test scores have declined. See graph.
  • In 68 school districts, the state MAEP funding received is not sufficient to cover the district’s teacher salaries and benefits; in 120 school districts, 90 percent or more of the state MAEP funding received is required to cover the cost of teacher salaries and benefits. See how your district fares here.
  • Special education has been under-funded by almost $150-million in the last five years; the House version of the K-12 funding bill under-funds special education for next year by more than $12-million. See details.
  • The MAEP is under-funded this year by $257-million and has been under-funded by more than $1.5-billion in the last seven years. See how much your district is under-funded here.
  • Funding beyond that required for the teacher pay-raise in the House version of HB 1536 is below the FY2008 level, with no restoration the draconian cuts made during the Great Recession. See the effect on your school district here.
  • Since 2008, the state budget, excluding K-12 education, has risen to more than 30 percent above the pre-recession high while the K-12 education budget remains below the FY2008 level. See graph.
  • The K-12 budget has lost ground as a percent of the total budget, indicating a shift in priorities. In FY2008, K-12 was appropriated 28 percent of the total state budget; in FY2015, public education received 23 percent of the state budget. See charts.
  • Almost every other state agency budget has recovered from recession under-funding and soared past the pre-recession high established in 2008. K-12 funding remains below FY2008 levels. See graph.
  • In each of the last four years, there has been a budget surplus; in two of those years, the surplus was more than enough to have fully funded the MAEP. See table.

Lt. Governor Tate Reeves has announced that Mississippi is in her best financial shape in years. He, Governor Bryant, and Speaker Gunn each have declared that state revenue is so abundant that a tax cut is in order. If we can use taxpayer dollars to pay tuition at unaccountable private schools, and revenue is plentiful enough to give large portions of it away in tax cuts, surely there is sufficient funding available to allow legislators to follow state law and keep their promise to our children of an adequately funded public school system.

Ask senators to ensure that the Mississippi Adequate Education Program is fully funded.

Find contact information for Senate Appropriations Committee members here.

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

Capitol Switchboard: 601.359.3770

Lt. Governor Reeves  Capitol: 601.359.3200

There is some good news…parents and educators are fully aware of the efforts being made to dismantle and undermine public schools for the benefit of privatizers and profiteers, and more are joining our effort every day. You can see the evidence of parent enthusiasm in the new groups that are popping up to push for full MAEP funding and fair treatment of public schools (Fed Up With 50th and Mississippians for Public Education) and elsewhere on social media. That’s terrific – keep it up, and spread the word! There truly is power in numbers.

Probably the most gratifying aspect of these efforts is their bi-partisan nature. We at The Parents’ Campaign have long maintained that public education is a non-partisan issue, and parents across Mississippi are proving us right. They are tired of partisan bickering and politics that put campaign donations before children and party before the prosperity of our state. We are tired of being 50th, and we are ready to do something about it!

Can you get more people to join us? Have you shared our emails with your contacts?  Call your legislators, and let them know that we have run out of patience. The time to fully fund our schools is now! 

Together, we can do this. Let’s get moving!

Speaker Gunn's proposed income tax elimination jeopardizes teacher pay raises and school funding far into the future.

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