Find other fat to trim before educationPublished 12:05am Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Mississippi’s Adequate Education Program is once again inadequately funded.
The statement is ironic, but also sad.
In 1997, Mississippi’s lawmakers set out to create a somewhat complicated educational funding formula.
The goal was simple: All Mississippi children need to receive a quality education, regardless of whether that child lives in a poor or wealthy district.
Unfortunately, the program cannot work, or at least cannot be judged as successful or not if lawmakers continue to underfund it.
Lawmakers approved a $5.5 billion budget Saturday that would leave MAEP with “level funding.” That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
The inference is: At least we didn’t cut the funding.
Based on MAEP funding formulas, the fiscal year 2014 state budget underfunds the law by approximately $292 million.
While throwing money at schools won’t make them improve, how will we ever know if the newest education program of the day is a success or not if we don’t at least give the program our full backing?
Shorting MAEP by $292 million is significant, regardless of what politicians may say. That’s no small chunk of change. One million dollars is the stuff of dreams for most Mississippians, so $292 million is like a lottery windfall.
Looking at the bigger, statewide picture, a $292 million shortfall is 5.3 percent of the total state budget.
Surely other, non-education state spending has more than 5 percent fat that could be cut, right?
Maybe it’s time to consider enacting a federal-style automatic sequester, with savings going directly to MAEP?
It couldn’t hurt much and think about what it might help, namely our future.