Voucher and State Budget News

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee adjourned its meeting last week without adopting its annual budget recommendation after Gov. Reeves refused to agree to the revenue estimate adopted by the committee.

Reeves wanted a higher revenue estimate, which he said would make it easier to eliminate the income tax in the 2024 Session, a move that would slash a third of Mississippi’s annual budget and devastate public schools and other state services. Lt. Gov. Hosemann pointed out that the economy has been slowing and revenue has come in below the estimate in the last two months, so the committee felt it was more prudent to keep the revenue projection at the level adopted last spring.

The budget recommendation is typically used as a starting point for budget negotiations, but its absence will not prevent the Legislature from doing its budget work during the session.

Also last week, the Mississippi Supreme Court set February 6, 2024, as the date to hear oral arguments in the case challenging the appropriation of public funds to private schools. In October of 2022, Chancery Court Judge Crystal Wise Martin ruled that the 2022 appropriation sending $10-million in state infrastructure funding to private schools was unconstitutional. The Mississippi Constitution prohibits the appropriation of any funds to a school “that at the time of appropriation is not conducted as a free school.” In other words, a school that charges tuition is not eligible for public funds. 

Attorney General Lynn Fitch is appealing that ruling, arguing that the funds were not appropriated directly to the private schools, but rather were appropriated to the Department of Finance and Administration with instructions to transfer the funds to private schools. Judge Martin thoroughly refuted this weak argument in her October 2022 ruling. It is unconscionable for our state attorney to encourage the circumvention of the clear intent of our State Constitution. Please continue to remind your legislators that the public’s funds belong in the public’s schools. Our State Constitution says so!

The State Board of Education is meeting this week to interview semi-finalists for State Superintendent of Education. They anticipate interviewing finalists and announcing their selection on December 20. I will keep you posted as that information is made available. 

Thanks so much for all you do to support our public schools. Together, we’ve got this!

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