House, Senate pass education budgets

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 21, 2003

At least we can say that Mississippi legislators have their priorities straight.

Their first major order of business since the regular session began has been to pass an education budget.

The House and Senate, which on Tuesday passed different bills that attempt to put more money into the state’s education budget than the recommended $2.1 billion.

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School officials statewide say that the money is needed to keep programs afloat.

We agree that schools &045; both K-12 and higher education &045; need more money.

But it appears that legislators in both houses are looking to rob Peter to pay Paul, and somewhere down the line that money isn’t going to be available again.

For example: Both houses propose borrowing money that has been set aside to settle the Ayers desegregation lawsuit, money that is ultimately destined to help historically black colleges like Alcorn State University.

Other funds to expand this year’s budget would come from the state’s rainy day fund or from special fund agencies.

Lawmakers are caught between a rock and a hard place: The state’s tax collections are lower than expectations because of the sluggish economy, but school budgets have been squeezed too much in the past.

As much as anyone, we want more money for education in Mississippi. Our state sits at the bottom of too many lists to deny that something needs to be done.

But we need a better plan to raise that money than stitching together an election year education budget quilt that could fall apart next year, leaving schools high and dry again.

We hope House and Senate members will work together now to come up with a workable budget that will benefit schools in the future.