Mississippi school districts are preparing for the worst regarding fiscal year 2006. Both the Mississippi Legislature's and the governor's budget recommendations fall short of fully funding education, according to education officials.
"Education should be automatically funded," said superintendent David Little of the Lauderdale County School District. "We shouldn't be distracted every year with worrying about whether or not we're going to have to cut back teachers or not."
The Mississippi Department of Education met with all superintendents last week to discuss funding issues and legislation.
"They didn't get anybody's hopes up. They were very candid and very realistic," said Sylvia Autry, superintendent of the Meridian Public School District.
During last year's budget crunch, Little handed out pink slips to 35 new hires, but was able to rehire them.
"I don't think we're going to have to do that this year," Little said.
"We made some reductions last year," Autry said. "We will protect the classroom as long as we can."
The budget situation, together with federal accountability mandates, mean districts will have to find ways to do more with less money.
MPS superintendent Sylvia Autry says districts may even have to reduce services in some areas, but she says another solution to ease the budget crunch, at least here locally, may be a greater sharing of services, courses and more joint purchases of supplies by the Meridian and Lauderdale County School Districts.