EDITORIAL: Impacts begin

By NEMS Daily Journal

The depth of Mississippi’s education cuts increased Friday with Gov. Barbour’s additional $11.2 million in reductions to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program for the current fiscal year.
Barbour has cut $204.6 million from 2010 K-12 spending – $179 million from the MAEP.
The growing toll and the broadening anticipation in local school districts for what’s coming in the 2011 state budget, which begins July 1, for the 2010-2011 academic year, gives specificity to the concerns expressed by administrators, teachers and many community education supporters statewide.
The Daily Journal’s article on page 1A Monday about Tupelo Public Schools’ plans to offer 40 tuition-paid spots during 2011 in a federally funded Title I pre-k program reflects the reach of cuts and the district’s inability to match reductions beyond its control with local funds.
Nancy Loome of the 50,000-member Parents’ Campaign said Friday in e-mails to the membership, “Schoolchildren are feeling the effects of those cuts in significant ways. I am continuing to hear from superintendents, teachers, and parents about how the cuts are affecting their schools …”
Loome cited the funding cuts to DeSoto County’s schools this year and that fast-growing district’s plans to cut salaries in 2011.
DeSoto Superintendent Milton Kuykendall said last week he will take a 10 percent cut in 2011 and has asked principals to accept a 4.2 percent cut. Kuykendall said cuts of about 8 percent will be made from other district employees pay.
The DeSoto superintendent also announced a work reduction from 240 to 230 days, for which employees won’t be paid.
“Sixty percent of our funding comes from the state. Our state legislature is making decisions right now that will determine what actions we have to take. These cuts will affect the integrity of our classrooms and increase the teacher/pupil ratio,” Kuykendall said.
Kuykendall did not rule out a districtwide property tax increase to keep the district’s 40 schools operating.
DeSoto County, it should be noted, is considered a wealthy district. Its actions suggest even more drastic reductions for districts with less taxation ability because of lower property values and assessments.
Loome and others believe 80 percent of districts statewide will increase local taxes because of Barbour’s cuts and only modest restoration efforts under way in the Legislature.
The impact of revenue shortfalls and reductions is felt in the Department of Mental Health, the justice system statewide, higher education, and the Department of Economic Development.
The impact of budget cuts doesn’t hit home until salaries, jobs and programs are reduced.
The impact has started, and there’s no sign of its diminishing.