EDITORIAL: School funding

Two of Mississippi’s leading education advocacy groups, The Parents’ Campaign and Parents for Public Schools, have joined forces for a 10-county meeting Nov. 9 at the Link Centre in Tupelo to generate opposition to major proposed cuts in education funding by the 2011 legislative session.
The 6:30 p.m. open session at the Link Centre in Tupelo will provide information about the impact of projected 15 percent cuts in education funding – a body blow following on a $250 million underfunding of local school districts in the 2010-2011 budget cycle. The cut during the current fiscal year is calculated to have cost 1,000 school jobs, including 700 teaching positions.
Nancy Loome, executive director of the Parents’ Campaign, which maintains a 60,000-strong list of education supporters, said everyone interested in preserving quality public schools is encouraged to attend.
Loome said the meeting would include a PowerPoint presentation, free handouts and open forum for questions and discussions.
Loome said she is committed to wrapping up formal discussion after 45 minutes but will stay and participate in discussions as long as audience members want.
“This meeting is for interested supporters, teachers, administrators and trustees in every school district in Tishomingo, Union, Prentiss, Tippah, Pontotoc, Monroe, Lee, Chickasaw, Alcorn and Itawamba counties,” Loome said Monday afternoon.
The meeting follows official recommendations from Gov. Barbour’s office that agency heads, including education, prepare for 15 percent funding cuts in fiscal year 2012, which starts in July 2011.
The cuts could be offset somewhat by about $500 million in cash reserves created by spending cuts since the recession started in 2007, but there’s no guarantee education would receive enough to stop additional reductions.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Johnny Stringer, D-Montrose, cast the coming fiscal decision in a painful and realistic light in Capitol Bureau Chief Bobby Harrison’s article on Sunday:
“I don’t want to spend all of those funds (during the 2011 session) but I don’t want to have a huge nest egg while laying off state employees and seeing college tuition go up 20 percent, 30 percent in some cases, and seeing ad valorem taxes on our homes, cars and businesses go sky high,” said Stringer.
Too few among the state’s elected leadership discuss rising taxes as a consequence of regular revenue shortages, but increases somewhere, probably in places beyond Gov. Haley Barbour’s veto pen, seem almost inevitable.
Public education is the cornerstone of progress in Mississippi. The Nov. 9 meeting will provide information about grave threats to its financial stability.

NEMS Daily Journal