Mississippi’s education leaders are asking lawmakers to increase state support of public schools, community colleges and universities by more than $350 million next year.
Officials with the Mississippi Department of Education, the Community College Board and the Institutions of Higher Learning presented their budget requests for fiscal year 2017 during a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee yesterday.
Most of the $350 million in requests would go to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program as well as increasing faculty pay and state financial aid for universities and expanding workforce development for community colleges.
Andrea Mayfield is the Executive Director of the Mississippi Community College Board. She says colleges need additional funds to train the workforce being promised to industries moving to the state.
“The expectation comes from the commitments that we’ve made [as] a state to these business and industries that now rely upon a workforce,” Mayfield says. “We’ve got to produce this workforce, and to do that you have to produce these career and technical training programs so we can prepare these people to go to work.”
However, lawmakers are unsure whether they will be able to fund the requests. Lower than expected revenues have already resulted in mid-year budget cuts for many state programs.
Appropriations Committee Chair, Republican Representative Herb Frierson of Poplarville says any increase will probably go towards specific programs.
“There are existing programs out there, pre-school, work force training programs or specific disciplines in IHL,” says Frierson. “ We need to look at al of that and see what we can do, but it maybe a flat year for everybody. Who knows? It’s early in the session yet.”
Education officials are adamant that their programs cannot stand another year of level funding. Superintendent of K-12 Education Carey Wright says continual flat funding will eventually eat into many of the gains the state has made over recent years.