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Enough is enough for our schools

Despite impressive increases in state revenue for the last three years, Mississippi children are once again being denied the funding that state law says is needed to provide them even an adequate education for the next school year.

The claims by some lawmakers that they are doing the best they can have fallen flat. Reports by the Department of Revenue and the Legislative Budget Office make it clear that state revenue has been more than sufficient to provide our children the quality education they deserve; it is simply the political will that is lacking.

Since 2011, recurring state revenue has increased by more than $800-million. During that same time, funding for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) has increased by only $113-million, or 14 percent of the increase in available funding. And that includes the teacher pay raise. If you don’t count the pay raise, MAEP got only 6 percent of the increased funding — hardly the “60 percent” that legislators like to say they’ve “thrown at” public schools.

Despite assurances that they would provide our children a proper education just as quickly as they possibly could after the recession, legislators have chosen to spend more than 86 percent of the increase in state funding on something other than our kids’ schools.

The effect on our schools has been severe: every imaginable service has been scaled back, and many eliminated, and thousands of school teachers, counselors, librarians, administrators and other personnel have lost their jobs. What’s worse is that some officials have taken advantage of the opportunity to attack public schools for the cuts in programs and services that were caused by our Legislature.

The good news is that there is now another option to ensure that public schools get a fair share of any increases in state revenue. A group called Better Schools, Better Jobs is working to amend the state constitution to require gradual increases in MAEP funding, whenever revenue grows, until full funding is reached. Full funding would be mandated each year after that.

More than 100,000 signatures on petitions will be required just to get the initiative on the ballot. If you have friends and family who would like to sign a petition, or to learn of other ways that you might help, visit betterms.org. The Parents’ Campaign fully supports this initiative.

We’ve been patient long enough. When it comes to our children’s futures, parents aren’t willing to wait around any longer to see if legislators will finally have a change of heart and decide to do right by our kids. I hope you’ll join me in committing to the passage of this constitutional amendment for adequate school funding and ensure that our children get the resources they need for the quality education they’ve been promised.

Teachers, administrators and parents are weary of the steady stream of knocks to our public schools coming from Jackson. We’re ready to do something about it. We welcome the accountability for our kids and their schools — but we demand that they be given the resources they need to meet the mark. Let’s get behind Better Schools, Better Jobs and give our children a real chance at success.

 

Nancy Loome

executive director of The Parents’ Campaign