Our children’s education is, once again, at the bottom of the priority list for the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC). That committee has announced its budget recommendation for Fiscal Year 2015, the budget that will be debated in the 2014 Legislative Session.
Despite an end-of-year budget surplus of $295-million and increases in state revenue for four years running, the committee recommended that not one additional penny be spent on the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, the formula that determines funding for our children’s schools. This budget would leave our public schools underfunded by $284.5-million for the 2014-2015 school year.
What are they recommending be done with all that extra money? They want to put most of it into savings accounts. The JLBC recommends socking away a total of $548-million in various reserve funds for a “rainy day.” Speculation is that they want to fill the reserve coffers to the Legislature can hand out lots of goodies in the 2015 Legislative Session – an election year.
The JLBC did recommend an overall state budget increase of about $36-million; some agencies lost funding while about $90-million in increases were spread amongst a few others. Literacy is recommended to get a $5.5-million bump, and that’s good news, but that funding will go to only a handful of school districts. All districts will be left strapped for cash with mounting costs and legislative mandates, unable to provide our children the resources they need to compete well with their peers in other states and countries.
The budget recommendation does not provide a line item breakdown, but here is what we are told is included in the K-12 budget:
- MAEP funding is maintained at the FY 2014 (current year) appropriated level of approximately $2.062 billion. This underfunds the MAEP by an estimated $284.5 million, bringing total underfunding since 2008 to $1.5 billion.
- Vocational Education is maintained at the FY 2014 appropriated level of approximately $78 million.
- An additional $5.5 million is provided in this recommendation for the next phase of the literacy initiative, sometimes referred to as 3rd Grade Gate.
- An additional $3 million is provided to enhance the Educable Child program.
- An additional $2 million is provided for teacher supply funding.
- The Chickasaw Interest formula is funded with an increase of $4.1 million.
- $10 million of Capital Expense Funds is recommended for school districts to construct or improve capital facilities.
- Pre-k programs are funded at the FY 2014 level.
So, what is it that schools could provide our kids if legislators followed the law and fully funded our schools? Click here to see a partial list of services that schools are lacking and could provide our children if they had adequate funding.