$2 Billion Education Bill Criticized

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Tuesday evening the Mississippi House did what the governor and others said couldn't be done. They voted to fully fund K-12 education.

At a price tag of $2 billion, House Bill 1696 fully funds an 8% raise for teachers, it fully funds Mississippi's Adequate Education Program, gives a $30.3 million increase for health insurance to all personnel and is $190 million over the governor's and the Legislative Budget Committee's Recommendation.

But according to some lawmakers it’s easier to propose this than actually to afford it. "All the spending in that bill are good things, for education and things we want to do, but there is nothing in this bill to show how we can pay for it," said Rep. Greg Snowden on Tuesday night.

The issue of money will be the main opposition when the bill heads to the Senate. Opposition local education leaders hope to overcome.

"Right now our problems are with the governor and the Senate. We will be in Jackson tomorrow, meeting with our senators, trying to make sure they know the gravity of not funding education," says Lauderdale County Superintendent David Little.

In fact, Lauderdale County could be forced to let go 30 teachers, something Meridian City Schools could face as well but hope not to.

"We have been over this so many times, trying to keep cuts as far away from the class room as we can. We do not plan on cutting teachers in the classroom unless there is an emergency," said Sylvia Autry, Meridian School Superintendent.

One of the biggest controversies surrounding this bill is that it does not address funding for Mississippi's Community Colleges and Universities, two entities that are already working below their budgetary means.

"We better invest in Community Colleges if we want to help the economic development of Mississippi," say Dr. Scott Elliot, President of Meridian Community College.

But with a $2 billion K-12 funding proposal, that investment may not be affordable.