Budget ax spares Chickasaw Cession funds

JACKSON – When Gov. Haley Barbour took his budget ax to education last week because of anemic state revenue collections, one area he did not cut was funding for the Chickasaw Cession school districts.
As Barbour pointed out, Chickasaw Cession funding could not be cut because it is part of a lawsuit settlement.
All Northeast Mississippi counties with the exception of portions of Monroe and Calhoun and all of Oktibbeha are in the Chickasaw Cession. As part of a lawsuit that made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1980s, the state is obligated to pay the Chickasaw Cession school districts in north Mississippi an appropriation that puts them on a par with the funds non-Chickasaw Cession school districts derive from 16th Section land leases.
“One of the greatest inequities as far as school funding was concerned was the difference in funding in the Chickasaw Cession counties and that of the rest of the state,” said House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi. “…It (Chickasaw Cession funding) has made all the difference in the world. It has been a tremendous help to the school districts up here and thus to the school children.”

History
From the very onset of the country, a tradition was formed to allocate the revenue from 1-16th of each six-square-mile township to public schools. But in north Mississippi, in land previously occupied by the Chickasaw Indians, that was not done.
To offset that oversight, the U.S. Congress gave the state nearly 175,000 acres of public lands in the 1830s. But the state sold that land and invested much of the profits of that sale in railroads that were destroyed during the Civil War.
When the lawsuit – Papasan vs. Allain – reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1986, it was estimated that the state was paying to the school districts in the Chickasaw Cession 63 cents per student to make up for the revenue lost by not having 16th Section land. In comparison, it was estimated that districts in the rest of the state were earning more than $75 per student from their 16th Section revenue.
The state now appropriates to those Chickasaw Cession school districts a yearly payment essentially equal to the average expendable 16th Section revenue.

More money
Earlier this summer, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, whose office administers 16th Section school lands, announced that in the fiscal year ending June 30, 16th Section revenue increased 42 percent, or $22.8 million, to $77.1 million. That increase was attributable to a number of things, Hosemann said, such as an increase in oil and gas royalties and an increase in leases negotiated for hunting and fishing privileges.
An increase in 16th Section revenue to the school districts also is good news for north Mississippi schools in the Chickasaw Cession.
“An over $22 million increase in 16th Section revenue results in a considerable increase for Chickasaw school districts,” Hosemann said.
That increase will be plugged into the formula for the appropriations to the Chickasaw Cession counties during the 2010-11 school year. How much of an increase it will mean to the Chickasaw Cession counties during that school year was not readily available.
But for the current school year, the state is set to appropriate $13 million to the Chickasaw Cession school districts. That means more than $750,000 for the Tupelo School District and hundreds of thousands for most school districts in Northeast Mississippi. The largest school district in the Chickasaw Cession – DeSoto – will receive close to $3 million.
McCoy first ran for the Legislature in 1979 with the goal of dealing with what he described as the inequity between funding in the Chickasaw counties versus the rest of the state. By the time the lawsuit was settled, McCoy and other north Mississippi legislators already had pushed through a bill to deal with the issue.
“A lot of people – in the public and private sector – deserve credit for fixing this,” McCoy said. “Even though we got legislation passed, the people who filed the lawsuit wanted to pursue the lawsuit so some governor or Legislature in the future could not back out.”

Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@djournal.com.

Northeast Mississippi school districts Chickasaw Cession funds
2008-2009 school year

District amount
Alcorn – $441,481
Corinth – $217,759
Benton – $147,097
Calhoun – $233,235
Chickasaw – $56,466
Houston – $222,273
Okolona – $95,629
Clay – $13,355
West Point – $324,013
Itawamba – $394,254
Lafayette – $267,211
Oxford – $328,150
Lee – $709,616
Nettleton – $147,685
Tupelo – $764,108
Marshall – $338,649
Holly Springs – $198,062
Monroe – $33,304
Aberdeen – $163,266
Amory – $178,869
Pontotoc County – $349,065
Pontotoc City – $234,474
Prentiss – $287,118
Baldwyn – $110,034
Booneville – $143,401
North Tippah – $155,938
South Tippah – $299,360
Tishomingo – $349,359
Union – $275,527
New Albany – $248,648
Totals
Year Amount
02-03 – $9.3 million
03-04 – $15.8 million
04-05 – $13.1 million
05-06 – $13.9 million
06-07 – $11.1 million
07-08 – $13.9 million
08-09 – $12.1 million
09-10 – $13 million

Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal