Much controversy has centered around the education funding formula rewrite known as HB957. This bill passed the Mississippi House on Wednesday of this week. The controversy surrounding the bill has mostly been the product of fear, misinformation, bipartisan politics, and those individuals fueling negative talking points for their own political gain and agenda.
In an attempt to shed a little light on the subject, I have included several supporting documents for anyone who might want to better educate themselves on our need for a rewrite, and just why Desoto County's entire House delegation voted for the measure.
Ultimately, the legislature is attempting to move beyond a formula that is so complicated that we as a state had to hire outside specialists to review it and make recommendations (Ed Build). In addition to the ridiculous complexity, it is important to point out that the MAEP formula which has existed for more than two decades, has only been fully funded twice (the year after it passed, and the year we as a state received a huge influx of federal Hurricane Katrina dollars).
Proponents of MAEP fail to convey that full funding under this extremely complicated and little understood formula, would create a financial burden on Mississippi so great that every other state agency would have to be drastically cut. This is one of the reasons why it has never been fully funded. The only other alternative to cutting every public service offered in the state, would be massive tax increases for all residents and businesses (this at a time when we as a legislature are doing all we can to create a more favorable environment to both. Raising taxes on individuals and business would only serve to drive both from our state. If that happened, it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to predict the long term negative implication that would have.
Since 2012 when the Republicans took control of the House and Senate in Mississippi, we have funded education at greater levels than in any year prior year since MAEP was formed (including all of the years under Democrat control). In the past two years amid lower state budgets, Republicans have continued to show their commitment to education by holding funding levels the same (even while every other state agency including the legislature took cuts). That's a huge deal considering almost half of Mississippi's entire budget is spent on education funding.
There is one House Representative that has propagated the mantra of "It's all about education." Fully funding MAEP his been his banner cry and answer for everything political, including even non-educational matters. It has been used to try and infer that education is not a priority for Republicans (which couldn't be further from the truth). This approach, has gotten him much traction and press as a politician, and helped him to develop a dedicated following among Mississippi's teachers. While on its surface, the phrase may sound pretty good, but upon a deeper look one will realize its very misleading. I will never argue that education isn't a key component of success. The book of Proverbs states that "Without vision, the people perish." But in the realm of government, try telling the person with no immediate food or shelter that "It's all about education" and what response do you think you might get? What about the parent of a special needs child that is in dire need of state assistance, the addict that is facing either death or rehabilitation that they can't afford, the child of a murdered parent that demands justice for their loved one, or even the driver who is forced to take an 30 minute alternative route to get to his or her destination because of another closed bridge? "It's all about education" is a great answer to some of Mississippi's problems, but it is certainly not the only one when it comes to state government or critical services funding.
The truth is that HB957 actually shows Republican's continued commitment to education in Mississippi, not the lack of it. Why should the same special needs child in one county be worth thousands of dollars more in another? What's equitable about that? Why can't we make funding levels based on enrollment instead of attendance? Why can't we give more control back to the local school districts when it comes to knowing what is best for their own student education and spending priorities? What's wrong with making it possible for school districts to accurately figure out how much money they will finally get so that they can budget their year better? The new budgeting formula simplifies the process and creates more transparency and predictability, all the while guaranteeing a commitment to even more funding in the future.
Don't believe the negative hype Desoto County. Your delegation of Representatives ARE looking out for your best interest. And what's all this talk about how it will cut money to Desoto County schools? I've attached a preliminary copy of the bill's projected impact on our school system's state funding (and it's almost $20 MILLION DOLLARS MORE A YEAR once implemented). This is one Representative that doesn't see how any of that could be bad for our Desoto County Schools, its wonderful teachers or students. One of the other biggest winners that needs mentioning here is every single person that lives, works, or owns property in Desoto County. Why? Because under this new formula all of the added funding will come without ever raising any more of your taxes!