MDE Requests $308 Million Budget Increase for Upcoming YearBy Jeffrey Hess | Published 19 Sep 2013 09:19am |
Leaders of the Mississippi public education system say they need a $308 million budget increase for the new fiscal year. The Department of Education made the request to the 14 member Joint Legislative Budget Committee which is crafting a recommended budget. Under funding in the current year is partly responsible for the large request.
In total, the Mississippi Department of Education is asking for $2.7 billion dollars to run the state's K-12 school system in the next fiscal year.
That is a $308 million increase over the current year.
School board President Dr. Wayne Gann says years of underfunding the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which is supposed to set state education spending, has put schools in a bind.
"Due to the economy of the last few years, school districts have been underfunded. There are expenditures that you can delay and you can make provision of that underfunding for some reasonable period of time, but eventually we have got to catch up on that," Gann said.
The MAEP formula actually declined by nearly $30 million this year, but because of underfunding in the current year it would take $308 million to reach full funding.
Committee Member and House Education chair John Moore of Brandon says it is unlikely that schools will get that increase.
"And we just have to wait and see what the analyst tell us about how much money we are going to have. See just which of those holes we can plug up. I don't have any reasonable expectation that we are going to be able to give them close to the total amount of money that they are wanting," Moore said.
A small group of protestors gathered before the hearing to urge lawmakers to restore full funding after years of short falls.
Among them was Kim Robinson who is a mother of two from Jackson.
"My reaction was to tell them to not make apologies on behalf of asking for more money to fully fund education for children. Children need this investment. We need to make sure that in order to push Mississippi forward that we fully invest in our children and make sure education is fully funded," Robinson said.
Because the education budget takes up more than half of all state spending, it will likely be a top issue when lawmakers start their 20-14 legislative session in January.
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