Mississippi could spend more money on education during the next fiscal year than at any point in state history. State leaders are proposing a $110 million increase in education funding, but public schools advocates say it's still not enough.
2008 was a banner year for kindergarten through 12th grade funding in Mississippi. That year the state spent $2.2 billion on public schools. Now after seven years, Mississippi may surpass that high-water mark.
At a press conference in the Capitol yesterday, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves outlined his plan to increase funding for public schools by $110 million. Reeves says ...
"It would mean the potential for spending more of our taxpayer’s money funding public education that has ever been spent in the history of our state," says Reeves. "I believe that's a worthwhile goal, and I believe we should all be pleased that because of strong fiscal management that we're in a position to be able to make these kind of strides in education funding."
Despite the increase, the amount proposed is still not enough to fully fund M.A.E.P. - the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. It's the state's funding mechanism that requires lawmakers to provide mid-level funding to schools. The $110 million has also not been earmarked for any specific purpose other than funding pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Public education advocates like Nancy Loome of the Parent's Campaign say the money should go specifically to M.A.E.P.
"Last year in 68 school districts the funding that they received from the state, M.A.E.P. funding, would not cover the cost of their teacher salaries and benefits," Loome says. "All of the other instructional costs they're having to make up from other funds. School districts need some additional M.A.E.P. funding, and we're hopeful that they'll take a significant step toward fully funding of maybe even fully fund the M.A.E.P. this year."
Since 2008, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program has gone nearly $1.5 billion underfunded.