I am deeply concerned by media reports of U.S. senatorial candidate Chris McDaniel’s support for abolishing the U.S. Department of Education and eliminating nearly $800 million in federal funding from our Mississippi schools.
I would rather not become a part of any political battle between candidates for office. However, the serious nature of these statements by state Sen. McDaniel leaves me no reasonable choice but to speak up on behalf of the students in our public schools.
As a former school district superintendent, I have been a lifelong proponent of public education. I believe it offers the greatest opportunity for students to succeed in life, and as a result, improve the state’s economy and our quality of life.
The nearly $800 million in federal funds Mississippi receives accounts for 24 percent of the state’s overall education budget. From these funds, the state received more than $117 million in Fiscal Year 2014 and is expected to receive $122 million in Fiscal Year 2015 for special education services in school districts. Additionally, millions of dollars are used for all Title programs, School Improvement Funds, Professional Development, Child Nutrition and Career and Technical Education programs.
Can you imagine how devastating this would be for the children of this state to not receive the money they need? Since 2009, the state has shortchanged MAEP by more than $1 billion. The possible loss of nearly $800 million would have a catastrophic impact on public education.
Federal law requires states to provide the necessary services for students with special needs. The loss of federal funds would force the state to generate the needed dollars to provide the same level of services, resulting in massive state and local tax increases and chaos in the state budget.
Someone has to speak for the boys and girls in our public schools, and I feel it is my duty to do just that. I urge you to join me in standing up for public education. I’m encouraging you to be vigilant, to alert your communities to this issue, and to communicate your opposition to any efforts to remove the federal funding that our students so desperately need.
Dr. O. Wayne Gann, Chairman
Mississippi State Board of Education
Jackson and Corinth