The Mississippi Department of Education is asking lawmakers for a two-point-three percent increase in funding for the 2016 fiscal year that begins next July. A majority of the increase would go to fund the state's adequate education formula.
Standing outside the Woolfolk Building in Downtown Jackson, yesterday, demonstrators greeted members the Joint legislative Budget Committee with signs asking them to fully fund the state's K-12 system. Eulah Peterson of Mound Bayou is a former educator. She says providing educational funding would benefit the state in the future.
"We're here to advocate for this funding," says Peterson. "We're asking that the legislature, as they do their budget planning, would definitely put in enough funding for MAEP, because tomorrow they're going to be here making decisions and we need them as prepared as possible."
Inside the committee meeting, education officials asked lawmakers for nearly two-point-five billion dollars in funding for the 2016 fiscal year. Under the proposed budget, the department is asking for a small increase to expand early education collaboratives, and level funding for the program aimed at improving third grade reading scores.
However, a majority of the increase go towards fully funding the Mississippi Adequate Education Formula. Superintendent of Education Carey Wright says it's the department top priority.
"We only came forward and asked for money that we felt was critical above what was given to us last year," says Wright. "That's why some of the funding that we asked for was level funding."
Yet, lawmakers were critical of the department's desires to fully fund the program. Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves says he wants any budget increase to go towards classrooms, not administration.
"MAEP formula seems to suggest that there is more and more money going into administration and less money into instruction," Reeves says. "That's one of the reasons that you've seen the legislature over the last three years, when we've increased funding significantly, we've done it for specific things like the teacher pay raise, like the third grade gate. We want to make sure a large percentage of the money goes into the classroom."
The Mississippi Adequate Education Formula has not been fully funded since 2008, leaving the program nearly one-point-five billion dollars underfunded.