EDITORIAL: Federal help needed

Mississippi’s public schools stand to gain more than $200 million in additional federal funding if two separate bills involving supplemental and special appropriations eventually pass Congress. We hope the congressional delegation finds a way to support them on final passage.
The funds – one involving Mississippi’s $98 million share of a $10 billion nationwide appropriation for local schools, and the other a potential $187 million from an extended, enhanced Medicaid package – would potentially empower saving thousands of teaching jobs for the 2011 budget year, plus set money aside for the 2012 budget.
U.S. Rep. Travis Childers was among the House members voting for the education funding that was part of a massive 2010 supplemental appropriation passed July 1 by the House.
The bill, HR 4899, would provide $34.7 billion to support U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and provide non-military assistance in building up State Department operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. It also provides $24 billion to help keep teachers, police, and firefighters employed nationwide during the recession, $13 billion to Vietnam War veterans that have been exposed to Agent Orange, $2.8 billion for Haiti earthquake disaster relief, $5.7 billion for PELL grants, $677 million to strengthen border protection, $275 million for the Gulf oil spill response, and $725 million for other programs.
Another proposal, HR 4213, could extend enhanced federal money for Mississippi’s Medicaid insurance program if the bill is successfully amended in the Senate. If amended and approved, that extra funding would free up an estimated $187 million in the Mississippi budget that could be switched from Medicaid health care to education and reserves. A proposed Senate amendment would extend the Temporary Increase in Federal Medicaid Matching Rate (FMAP), through June 30, 2011
The Legislature in April passed a proposal signed by Gov. Haley Barbour to spend $110 million of the enhanced Medicaid match funds – much of it directed toward education – if the federal bill is passed. Barbour supports the extra federal Medicaid funding.
The other bill, the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010, which passed the House, creates a $10 billion Education Jobs Fund to provide additional emergency support to local school districts to prevent impending layoffs. An estimated $98.2 million of the fund will go to school districts in Mississippi. It is estimated that this fund will help keep 1,663 school employees in Mississippi. The bill would provide $4.95 billion for the PELL Grant Program, money sought by many Mississippi college students.
Mississippi’s dire financial situation justifies more congressional support.

NEMS Daily Journal