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Find other fat to trim before education

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.

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