It’s the shortfall that kills us in education

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 30, 2004

Some anxious lawmakers looking over their shoulder at other states are worried that Mississippi might be sued over education funding.

But worrying about being sued is a little bit like Butch and Sundance looking over a cliff at the water below and worrying that they’ll drown if they jump. The fall &045;&045; or in our case the shortfall in funds &045;&045; is what kills us.

Lawmakers don’t need to be worried about being sued; they need to worry about adequately funding education, which is what they voted to do back in 1997 when they passed the aptly titled &uot;Mississippi Adequate Education Program.&uot;

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It’s been fully funded a grand total of one time since then.

We understand that budgets are tight. We understand that other departments demand time and money.

But when are lawmakers going to realize that education is the silver bullet, perhaps the most important weapon in our fight for better-paying jobs, better industries and a better way of life for the state’s residents?

Senate Education Committee Chairman Mike Chaney &045;&045; who isn’t worried about a lawsuit &045;&045; said the passage of MAEP

&uot;speaks highly&uot; of all the lawmakers. Well, it’s not going to do much good if it isn’t fully funded.

And the state won’t have much defense against a lawsuit if it hasn’t fully funded its own adequate education program. But lawmakers should be more worried about how to fund education &045;&045; and what happens to our students and schools when they don’t. We have a history in this state of robbing Peter to pay Paul when it comes to education funding, and that is not the answer either.

Our own area delegation has an opportunity this week to tell us what they think about education funding at a chamber of commerce-funded legislative breakfast on Thursday. Afterwards, the lawmakers are scheduled to visit classrooms at Natchez-Adams schools.

We hope that will give them a hands-on lesson in the importance of school funding &045;&045; and give them some ideas to take back to Jackson to fight for an adequate education for all.