Senate Appropriations Committee Passes K-12 Funding Bill

Posted 3/16/15

The Senate Appropriations Committee took up the K-12 funding bill this afternoon. No amendments were offered and no changes were made to the bill, which under-funds the MAEP by $201-million for next year. It will go to the Senate floor tomorrow morning. Please call your senator immediately. See details below.

Sen. David Blount asked in committee if the intent is to take the bill to conference (which would provide another opportunity to increase K-12 funding). Sen. Terry Burton, who is handling the K-12 funding bill in the Senate, said that the leadership's intent is for the Senate to pass the bill tomorrow and send it straight to the governor to "fund education first." 

I probably don't need to tell you that funding education "first" does not necessarily mean they are funding it well, and it certainly doesn't mean that they are funding it fully. 

What does it mean? Sending the bill to the governor bypasses any opportunity to increase funding in the bill and thwarts the will of parents and educators who are demanding full funding of the MAEP.

Near the end of each legislative session, the revenue estimating committee meets and gives legislators a final revenue estimate on which they base the next year's appropriations. It is anticipated that the Fiscal Year 2016 revenue estimate will be raised, meaning the appropriations bills that are in conference committees will have the benefit of being considered in light of increased revenue. Sending the bill to the governor now would eliminate the opportunity to increase K-12 funding in conference.

The deadline for the full Senate to vote on the K-12 funding bill is tomorrow. Any Senator can offer an amendment to increase the amount of MAEP funding in that bill. Please ask your senator to amend HB 1536 to fully fund the MAEP and give our children a decent shot at success.

Ask your Senator to amend HB 1536 to fully fund the MAEP or send the bill to conference for further work.

Find contact information for all of the legislators who represent your school district here.

Capitol Switchboard: 601.359.3770

Lt. Governor Reeves  Capitol: 601.359.3200

The Senate will convene tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. You can watch the proceedings online here. We will report the details to you tomorrow.

Here are the facts that legislators should consider:

  • State mandated STEP increases for teachers cost school districts an estimated $30-million per year; school districts haven't had a $30-million non-earmarked funding increase since FY2008.
  • When Mississippi schools have been fully funded, achievement has improved; when funding has fallen short, test scores have declined. See graph.
  • In 68 school districts, the state MAEP funding received is not sufficient to cover the district's teacher salaries and benefits; in 120 school districts, 90 percent or more of the state MAEP funding received is required to cover the cost of teacher salaries and benefits. See how your district fares here.
  • Special education has been under-funded by almost $150-million in the last five years; the House version of the K-12 funding bill under-funds special education for next year by more than $12-million. See details.
  • The MAEP is under-funded this year by $257-million and has been under-funded by more than $1.5-billion in the last seven years. See how much your district is under-funded here.
  • Funding beyond that required for the teacher pay-raise in the House version of HB 1536 is below the FY2008 level, with no restoration of the draconian cuts made during the Great Recession. See the effect on your school district here.
  • Since 2008, the state budget, excluding K-12 education, has risen to more than 30 percent above the pre-recession high, while the K-12 education budget remains below the FY2008 level. See graph.
  • The K-12 budget has lost ground as a percent of the total budget, indicating a shift in priorities. In FY2008, K-12 was appropriated 28 percent of the total state budget; in FY2015, public education received 23 percent of the state budget. See charts.
  • Almost every other state agency budget has recovered from recession under-funding and soared past the pre-recession high established in 2008. K-12 funding remains below FY2008 levels. See graph.
  • In each of the last four years, there has been a budget surplus; in two of those years, the surplus was more than enough to have fully funded the MAEP. See table.

School districts are facing dire situations this year with critical programs headed to the chopping block due to years of massive under-funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP). Buses are overdue for replacement, students are going without textbooks, and class sizes are escalating as districts struggle to do more with less. Though overall funding has increased some in recent years, the bulk of it has been earmarked for a much-needed teacher pay raise as well as for legislative pet projects, leaving many school districts and local taxpayers holding the bill for annual teacher salary increments and other unfunded mandates

Parents have waited patiently for legislators to fully fund our children's schools, but time has run out, and so has their patience. Moms and dads are tired of excuses, and they are ready to hold legislators accountable for their stewardship of our tax dollars. Click here to see how parents are standing up and speaking out.

If legislators can send taxpayer dollars to unaccountable private schools, and revenue is plentiful enough to give large portions of it away in tax cuts, surely there is sufficient funding available for legislators to keep their promise to our children of an adequately funded public school system.

Please make those calls to senators; get your friends and family to call, too. Let's get moving and get this done for our kids!

As the old proverb says, "When you pray, move your feet."