Curious Turn on MAEP, More Vouchers to Fight

Posted 2/15/17

Yesterday, Speaker Gunn told Capitol reporters that the House would hold the MAEP appropriation for FY2018 (next school year) until they take up the rewrite of the MAEP formula. This morning, the House Appropriations Committee passed a K-12 funding bill that funds the Department of Education and special programs like literacy but omits MAEP funding for public school districts. A few hours later, that bill passed the full House with no explanation for the removal of MAEP funding.

This is curious for a number of reasons:

   1. In a joint statement last week, the Speaker and Lt. Governor claimed that the funding law rewrite would have little "appreciable impact" on funding for the coming year.

   2. How could the Legislature possibly craft the rest of the state budget when the MAEP occupies the largest portion of it?

   3. The Senate has already announced its position on the K-12 appropriation: flat funding (level with current year) plus merit pay.

   4. Pairing the FY18 MAEP funding bill with the rewrite of the MAEP law will mean that either the public will be denied the thorough rewrite process they deserve or that teachers and school districts will be left in limbo, as districts cannot offer teacher contracts for next year until a school funding bill is passed.

Given those facts, there simply is no good reason to hold the public school appropriation hostage to the funding rewrite. I have requested a meeting with the Speaker to get some clarification, and I promise to keep you posted about what I learn.

Also, heads-up on four voucher bills that are still alive. These bills, SB 2575, SB 2585, SB 2947, and HB 1703, are considered "revenue" bills, so the deadline for action on them is still pending. All four bills use state funds to subsidize private school tuition through tax credits or tax deductions. This is one of the creative ways privatizers have devised to disguise vouchers. Make no mistake, these are vouchers that reduce funding for public schools and pay for tuition at private schools.

The Senate voucher bills have been referred to the Senate Finance Committee and await action there. Likewise, HB 1703 has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. Please alert your legislators that these are dangerous voucher bills, and ask for a "no" vote if the bills are brought up in committee or on the Senate/House floor.

Find contact information for legislators who represent your school district. Share the same message with Lt. Governor Reeves: Capitol, 601.359.3200, and Speaker Philip Gunn: Capitol, 601.359.3300.

We will let you know immediately if these bills advance. In the meantime, continue to remind your legislators of the importance of an open process regarding the MAEP rewrite. Citizens deserve public hearings and an opportunity to fully vet specific proposals put forward by the leadership. Let us know what you're hearing, and we'll keep you in the loop on this end. Together, we've got this!