Mississippi’s public school supporters in the past week heard the familiar sad words of an annual pre-legislative session lament: There’s no additional funding to make the Mississippi Adequate Education Program funding anywhere close to its mandate.
The Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) announced its budget recommendation for Fiscal Year 2015, and it underfunds MAEP by $285 million for the 2014-2015 school year. The cumulative underfunding comes to about $1.5 billion because of legislators failing to follow their own mandate and because governors repeatedly have agreed with the underfunding.
Every measure of state achievement that’s negative is linked to lack of adequate educational attainment, and underfunding contributes directly to that because schools cannot overcome their own inadequacy without enough money to prepare students for 21st century jobs.
Nancy Loome, speaking for The Parents’ Campaign, suggests a direct live-voice campaign of parents, teachers students and all others who believe in public education, with legislators: Tell legislators the expectation is better education funding when the 2014 session begins.
Then, keep up the direct contact during the session to remind them that education funding is priority 1.
Legislators, approached with respectful directness, usually respond in kind, but response and agreement is the goal.
The main constituency for schools is not highly paid professional lobbyists who represent entities seeking to make money off the public purse but unpaid advocates who want the best Mississippi can offer its children.
The unpaid lobbyists, who don’t offer fancy receptions and nice meals, are more important because they speak usually from direct experience with public schools, students and teachers, where some lobbyists have never set foot.
Many Mississippians, because we are a small state, know their representatives and senators on a first-name basis. That familiarity should open the doors necessary for honest conversations with the women and men who have the votes to enrich the educational future for all public school children in our state.
Less than a month remains before the Legislature is gaveled to order and the hard work of governance begins.
Mississippi is in a recovery mode from the Great Recession, a situation inviting more investment in the long-term necessities for a prospering, well-educated, higher-wage state.