JACKSON – The House Republican leadership defeated efforts Tuesday to increase funding for public education.
The House voted 66-53 to send the $2.1 billion budget for kindergarten through 12th grade education to the Senate at least $265 million short of full funding under the Mississippi Adequate Education Program formula. The bill is for the school year that starts July 1.
The bill passed last week with no effort to increase the funding amount proposed by the House Republican leadership. But it was held on a motion to reconsider, leaving the door open to try Tuesday to provide additional funds.
Education funding advocates had expressed optimism that there would be enough Republican members breaking ranks with the leadership to pass an amendment to increase funding.
Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, had asked members to hold the bill so that an amendment could be offered to either fully fund MAEP or at least increase funding. Democrats in both the House and Senate have advocated a plan to phase in full funding over a period of years for MAEP, which provides the bulk of the state’s share of the basics of operating local school districts.
Most of the chamber’s Democrats and one Republican voted to hold the legislation so that an amendment could be added to increase funding to the local school districts. Three other Republicans originally voted in favor of the effort to provide more education funding, but later changed their votes. On the other hand, four Democrats voted with the Republican leadership, blocking the effort to increase funding.
Chickasaw County state Representative Preston Sullivan, D-Okolona, voted against it.
MAEP is more than $290 million short of full funding for the current year and more than $1.2 billion short since 2008.
Hundreds of teachers and other local district personnel have been laid off because of cuts that have occurred since the recession hit in 2008 and state revenue began to decline, according to information provided in the past by the state Department of Education.
Northeast Mississippi superintendents have said the cuts are having a significant impact.
Scott Cantrell, Monroe County School District superintendent, said, “We’ve had to put more students in classrooms than we prefer. We’ve had to do with fewer custodians and bus shop employees, and you try to keep it (cuts) out of the classroom as much as you can, but you can’t always do that.”
He said the district had lost $5 million since the 2010-11 school year.
House Appropriations Chair Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, has not ruled out the possibility of increasing funding for local school districts later in the process when more is known about the state revenue picture.
“It is according to what happens with the revenue estimate,” Frierson said.
The House and Senate are supposed to finalize the state budget in late March or early April, meaning there are still multiple steps to be completed in the state budgeting process.
The budget approved Tuesday by the House is essentially level funding, plus $25 million for a teacher pay raise.
Votes of Northeast Mississippi legislators on effort to allow vote on proposal to increase funding for kindergarten through 12th grade education:
FOR: Nick Bain, D-Corinth; Tyrone Ellis, D-Starkville; John Faulkner, D-Holly Springs; Karl Gibbs, D-West Point; Kevin Horan, D-Grenada; Tommy Reynolds, D-Water Valley.
AGAINST: Brian Aldridge; R-Tupelo; William Tracy Arnolds, R-Booneville; Jim Beckett, R-Bruce; Donnie Bell, R-Fulton; Randy Boyd, R-Mantachie; Chris Brown, R-Aberdeen; Gary Chism, R-Columbus; Joey Hood, R-Ackerman; Mac Huddleston, R-Pontotoc; Bill Kinkade, R-Byhalia; Steve Massengill, R-Hickory Flat; Margaret Ellis Rogers, R-New Albany; Jody Steverson, D-Ripley; Preston Sullivan, D-Okolona; Jerry Turner, R-Baldwyn