State Democrats Claim There Is Enough Money To Increase Education SpendingBy Jeffrey Hess | Published 25 Mar 2013 02:55pm |
Mississippi Democratic Lawmakers are claiming the state has more than enough money to dramatically increase spending on education. Democrats say there is $400 million in savings and un-allocated funds.
Early budget projections have the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, the state's K-12 spending formula, short about $292 million.
Democrats held a public hearing Monday in an effort to show that the state could cover that gap if law makers choose to.
Representative Cecil Brown of Jackson says between un-allocated funds, savings, and revenue growth there is $409 million being left on the table.
"We are $292 million dollars short in MAEP. We could fund the whole thing," Brown said, "Now I am not suggesting we do that. My suggestion would be we set a target. If it is $292 million dollars short today, lets say over the next three years or five years, lets bring it up to where it needs to be."
Democrats also claim that years of under-funding has left the state education system short nearly $1 billion dollars.
That's enough to hire 4,800 teachers, 12,000 assistant teachers, or buy 20,000 buses according to Representative John Hines of Greenville.
"It just doesn't balance ladies and gentleman. We can't figure out why it doesn't balance. Or what the ulterior motive behind undercutting education when every child deserves the right to have an adequate education," Hines said.
Democrats, who are the minority party in both chambers, acknowledge that their only option to truly influence education spending is to create pressure on Republican lawmakers who run the budget committees.
One of those lawmakers, Representative Herb Frierson of Poplarville, says he would be in favor of full funding if the money were truly available.
"Think of it this way. There is 400-million dollars in one-time dollars in the state general fund budget right now. And MAEP is short about 300-million dollars plus in MAEP under-funded. That tells you right there just in those two areas that you are short 700-million dollars in re-occurring funding," Frierson said.
Spending on education is likely to slightly increase this session, but little if any of that money is expected to be directed toward MAEP.
The deadline to approve a budget is Monday.
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