EDITORIAL: Education funds

The Legislature’s impasse about the 2010 budget generally and Medicaid specifically has drawn attention away from the funding levels proposed for public education.
On that critical issue the clearly better option has been offered by the House.
Proposed funding levels reported by the Mississippi Department of Education show the House plan would provide $23 million more than the Senate version. The House version would fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program – the formula designed to provide enough money to achieve minimum levels of adequacy in each district.
So far, despite thousands of teachers and administrators waiting to sign contracts for the 2009-2010 academic year, the Legislature hasn’t given any indication of agreement on money for schools. It could recess again today after returning on Tuesday from a previous recess that began May 8. The budget remains the issue.
Next Wednesday, June 3, is the adjournment deadline. An agreement surely is possible.
Gov. Barbour has proposed an education budget that funds K-12 at a level approximately $45 million below the House position.
The House position also fully funds add-on programs like gifted-student education, vocational education, and special education, as well as National Board Certified Teacher supplements, a salary incentive for which teachers must pass rigorous training and testing.
The Senate position version funds what the advocacy group The Parents Campaign describes as the MAEP base student cost and the National Board Certified Teacher supplements, but the Senate would reduce funding for add-on programs by $11.3 million.
The so-called add-ons, of course, have been widely supported and are generally perceived as part of the basic education package that should be available for all students who qualify and have a need.
Funding in the Senate proposal would mean an average loss in districts of about of 1 percent of their state funding for MAEP and add-on programs. The Senate proposal for funding beyond MAEP could mean an additional .5 percent loss.
The new fiscal year starts July 1.
Teachers, students, and parents need to know what level of financial support their local districts can expect from the state in the 2010 fiscal year.
Schools, it must be remembered by those who govern in Jackson, are in summer recess but will resume in regular session in a mere two months.
If funding isn’t adequate class sizes could increase because of fewer teachers, some courses might be dropped, and some activities eliminated.
And, in some cases, local property taxes for school support might increase when districts request millage rates from counties and cities in October.

NEMS Daily Journal