/Democrats alarmed by possible changes in education funding

Democrats alarmed by possible changes in education funding

Representatives from the Mississippi education sector discussed Thursday’s needs during a public hearing that raised concerns about the state’s public education funding budget. They spoke out about smaller class sizes, more up-to-date textbooks and better school facilities. The Joint House/Senate Black Caucus/Democrat Caucus hosted the hearing. It was the first such legislative session to focus on the issues that the public believes the legislature should address as it considers changing the state’s public school funding formula. It was not a meeting of the legislative committee and there were no Republican legislators present. Robert Johnson III (D-Natchez), stated that the session was designed to help the public understand the real issues in education, the funding issues, and the… issues that the legislature should be concerned about. Johnson, who is vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, stated that the legislature is preparing to vote on a multibillion-dollar educational budget. A possible cut to the Mississippi Adequate Educational Program is one of the items under consideration. This program was passed in 1997. It establishes a formula to determine the appropriate amount of spending required to provide an education for Mississippi students. Johnson stated that the legislature is $2 billion short of what it needs to fully fund the program. Joyce Helmick, president of the Mississippi Association of Educators said libraries, safe buses, and updated computers are some of the resources that are needed in public schools across the state. Helmick stated that all of these resources require legislators to pay the state’s fair share for students’ public education. Helmick recommended increasing the starting salary for teachers from $33,400 – $40,000 in order to solve the teacher shortage in certain areas of the state. Rhea Bishop (executive director of the Mississippi Center for Education Innovation) also spoke at the session. She suggested that funding for at-risk students be increased. Bishop stated that any attempt to alter the formula to reduce or divert funds from existing Mississippi school districts is an intentional attack on our most vulnerable students._x000D