Education should be investment

Published 1:44 am Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Mississippi’s future depends on improving our public education system. How that is done requires full public attention and careful, deliberate discussion.

A key underpinning in that discussion is providing level and fair education funding for all Mississippi young people regardless of whether they live in a poor area of the state or an affluent one.

In the coming weeks, lawmakers will begin debating education-funding bills.

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Last week, lawmakers passed what are effectively placeholder bills, the details of which will be added later.

That is not how government should work.

Something as important as education funding does not need to be pushed through quickly, with details added at the last minute.

Educational funding in Mississippi has been a mess for approximately 20 years when the current educational funding formula was created.

The Mississippi Adequate Education Program has been fully funded only twice in its two decades of existence. The level of funding it provides is subject to the annual whims of state lawmakers.

A consulting firm, EdBuild, has made recommendations on a new funding formula this year.

Natchez-Adams School District leaders believe the proposed funding formula would cut state funds coming to the district by approximately $188,000 annually.

Other districts across the state would lose even more money with the formula.

Streamlining and making state education spending more efficient and effective is wise. However, simply cutting the funding and throwing the onus back on local districts is not.

For Mississippi to ever climb free of our institutional poverty ravine, we must look at education as an investment, not an expense.

Until then, the annual debate on education funding will continue and our children will be looked at not for what they might become, but what they might cost.