EDITORIAL: No more cuts

Mississippi’s largest volunteer education support group, The Parents’ Campaign, makes a reasonable funding proposal for public education as the 2012 budget process gets serious: No more cuts.
The hold-the-line position acknowledges the dire financial situation our state faces going into the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2011, in not asking for immediate restoration of funds already cut. It does offer a firewall against further decimation of state education funding, which largely caused 91 of 152 districts this year to raise local property taxes.
No legislator can flatly claim an outcome of no new taxes when state-level cuts clearly required additional local taxes in a majority of districts.
If, as projected in some scenarios, state K-12 education spending were to bear an additional 15 percent cut for 2012, the gap between full funding and actual funding for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program would grow from $243 million to $537 million. The MAEP is the baseline funding mechanism for every school statewide.
Legislative budget leaders, with Gov. Barbour participating via teleconference link, were told Monday that if Mississippi funded programs as prescribed by law – including adhering to statutory formulas regarding K-12 and community college education – the state budget would face a $1.2 billion shortfall because of the loss of $700 million in non-recurring funds, including $500 million in federal stimulus funds. Other non-recurring funds, for example, came from various agencies’ budgets and some from lawsuits settled in the state’s favor.
Parents’ Campaign executive director Nancy Loome, briefing the Daily Journal on Tuesday, said an additional 15 percent cut would “devastate” schools and “there is no fat left” to cut.
Loome said one of her great concerns, shared by many others, is that another huge cut would drive many of Mississippi’s best teachers from the profession because their classrooms already suffer from lack of teaching supplies and reductions in the number of teaching assistants. Loome said many teachers, because of faculty reductions, have “huge classes.”
The most persuasive fact for no additional education cuts may be the proportion of cuts already made for the current fiscal year: 11.94 percent for K-12 education and an average of 9.3 percent for all other impacted state agencies and programs.
The no-more-cuts movement requires massive support: from parents, other school backers, and the business community, which depends on adequately educated new employees year after year.
Education funding shouldn’t be a partisan issue because nobody argues against the positive outcomes of education adequacy and its impact on prosperity and quality of life in our state.

NEMS Daily Journal