Lawmakers should put children first

Published 2:00 pm Sunday, February 4, 2018

Mississippi lawmakers made a bold promise in 1997 with the passage of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program — to take politics out of funding the state’s education system.

It was heralded as the great savior of the state’s perennially lagging public education system. The hope and promise of the law quickly dissipated when the reality of the law set in.

MAEP has an inherently bad problem in it. As written the law does not require lawmakers to fully fund it.

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And, in the 21 years since that landmark education bill was passed into law, lawmakers have only kept that promise twice — both in election years.

That lack of full funding has cost the Natchez-Adams School District — and all others in the state — literally millions and millions of dollars per district through the years.

Currently lawmakers are working to scrap MAEP and replace the law with a new one.

The new one also creates a funding equation that would allocate more funding at the moment than the state spent last year, but far less than the state should have spent had they followed the MAEP formula promised in 1997.

Before lawmakers pass the new formula, we hope they will take a moment to look around Mississippi. Take a hard look and ask:

4Why is our economy lagging those around us?

4Why do we lock up so many of our residents in jail?

4Why do so many of our sons and daughters leave the state for better opportunities?

A serious and thoughtful consideration to these questions should point to a key problem inherent in Mississippi government — we care more about adults in Mississippi than our children.

Lawmakers need to stop nibbling at the margins on education funding and invest heavily on it. The rewards will be felt for generations to come.