From press & staff reports
As with many schools districts in Mississippi which have smaller towns and schools, funding is always an uphill battle. To offset funding costs, a law was created.
The Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) is a 1997 law created to equalize state support for every child in public k-12 schools regardless of whether the child lives in a poor school district or a wealthy school district. MAEP was intended to level the playing field. The MAEP funds teachers and district employee salaries, textbooks and instructional materials, basic operational costs (utilities, maintenance, and etc.)
Even with this law, the Legislature has fully funded MAEP only twice since 1997. It’s 2014, and funding is still inadequate. And now, the Legislature continues to cut and cut the funding so that our schools are deeply behind in the support they need for our children to succeed. Over the past six years, our public schools have lost $1.3-billion due to underfunding by the Mississippi Legislature.
With Mississippi’s economy back on the move, our natural economic growth, not new taxes, will provide funds to fully meet the promise of better schools and better jobs.
To make this a reality, The Better Schools Better Jobs initiative was created. It’s a coalition of Mississippi public schools supporters and organizations, which know that our state and our school children cannot reach their potential without well funding educations.
The Better Schools Better Jobs initiative will require the Legislature to use at least 25 percent of new growth to build up the Mississippi Adequate Education Program fund intended to ensure that every public school district has enough state support to provide the basics for a good education.
Better Schools, Better Jobs seeks passage of a constitutional amendment to require the Legislature to live up to the promise it made in 1997 to adequately fund our K-12 schools. It proposes a phased-in method to reach full funding without any new taxes – to use new growth in the state’s general fund to build K-12 resources and keep them there.
The goal is to secure the signatures of 200,000 registered voters to place the amendment language on the November 2015 statewide ballot so that Mississippi’s voters can decide whether they want their children’s public schools adequately funded.
The plan for the Better Schools Better Jobs initiative proposes a conservative, responsible method to phase-in funding across six years so that MAEP can be restored using NEW money from economic growth, not from other agencies’ budgets or tax increases. Frankly, our state’s economy usually grows 2-3 percent every year. If we can require adequate school funding from that NEW money, over a few years it will build until we have full funding for our schools.
Locally, the Choctaw County School District is asking for support of the community with their signatures on this petition. This petition will soon be available for all to sign, and anyone can check the upcoming editions of The Choctaw Plaindealer for more information regarding availability.
If you would like more information regarding MAEP or the Better Schools Better jobs initiative, you may call (769) 524-6818 or visit www.betterms.org.