Mississippi lawmakers are one step closer to finalizing the state's education budget for next year. Republicans call the measure fiscally conservative, but critics warn that the budget would place an untoward burden on local school districts. MPB's Paul Boger reports.
The House of Representative has approved a budget that would fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program at 2.15 billion dollars for fiscal year 2015. House Education Committee Chair Republican John Moore of Brandon said the amount appropriated is what the state can afford.
"I do not think it does you or I or the constituents that we represent any good to come in here and do a 'pie in the sky' budget, and then have to come back when reality sets in then we have to lower the numbers." said Moore.
While the measure would increase education spending by more than 25 million over this year's budget, it still falls about 265 million dollars short of full funding. Sam Bounds is with the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents. He says school administrators were hoping the state would put more money into education.
"$1.3 billion under-funded in the last five years' it's caused our districts to lay off so many good teachers, so many personnel." Bounds said. "That's creating severe problems in our districts, that we were hoping that we were moving in the right direction. That we would get something more than level funding."
House Democrats are also disappointed with the proposal, but Republican Appropriations Committee Chair Republican Herb Frierson of Poplarville says nearly every state program is having similar budget problems.
"I do realize that we need more money there, and we have got to work towards that." said Frierson. "We're coming out of the hole. We're deep in a hole from the recession. I'd like to get all of our educational budgets back to that 2000 level of funding, we're just not going to be able to do it in one year.
2007 was the last year Mississippi legislators fully funded the state's educational program. Since than it has fallen nearly 1.5 billion dollars short of full funding.