Imagine what the impact would be if 25 percent of the money coming into Mississippi’s public schools suddenly disappeared.
Schools have enough problems dealing with chronic state underfunding, with the Legislature having met the legal requirement for support of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program only twice in this century.
But U.S. Senate candidate Chris McDaniel doesn’t believe the federal government should spend any money at all on education. He’s said on the campaign trail recently that the U.S. Department of Education is unconstitutional and he’d vote to abolish it.
The second-term state senator from Jones County, in doing away with federal education funding, would cut out about $800 million of the $3.3 billion spent on Mississippi’s K-12 public schools in the last year. That’s nearly a quarter of the total.
The consequences would be devastating, of course. McDaniel shrugs off the implications, saying that if Mississippi was “allowed to keep more of its tax revenue, (it) could offset those losses.”
That’s wishful thinking, to put it mildly. How could Mississippi possibly make up $800 million annually when it doesn’t even do what the law requires with state funding as it is?
This doesn’t even speak to the federal funds for education that come to Mississippi’s community colleges and universities. McDaniel has been critical of the man he is challenging in the June 3 Republican primary, Sen. Thad Cochran, for channeling federal funds to Mississippi State University, the University of Mississippi and other institutions in the state. The programs those congressionally directed appropriations – earmarks, in the Capitol nomenclature – have been significant in keeping Mississippi’s higher education system competitive.
Mississippi historically has been the state that receives, per capita, the greatest infusion of federal funds compared to taxes paid. The connection between Mississippi’s status as the nation’s poorest state and its need for those federal dollars is obvious.
To breezily suggest that Mississippi could get along fine without those appropriations – zeroing them out in education – is grossly misleading.
Mississippi’s goal should be to become less dependent on federal funds, but those funds are a vital necessity in shoring up the state’s best hope for that change to occur. A better-educated population with improved job skills is our only conceivable way off the economic bottom. Cutting one-fourth of the money spent on schools in Mississippi would be a disastrous course to pursue.