JACKSON — Mississippi legislators are working on early proposals to fund state government during the year that begins July 1.
The House passed several budget bills Wednesday, including House Bill 1536, which would add about $106 million to schools.
The proposed education budget includes about $40 million for the second year of a teacher pay raise program. It also has $6 million to give raises to assistant teachers, although that number could increase later if legislators agree on a larger raise for the assistants than was originally planned.
The proposal would put tens of millions more dollars into the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. But, the school funding formula would still be shortchanged by more than $200 million.
MAEP was put into law in 1997 as a way to give school districts enough money to meet midlevel academic standards. It has been fully funded only twice.
Legislators have a deadline in late March to agree on an overall $6.2 billion state budget.
About half of the budget bills are filed in the House, about half in the Senate. After an initial round of debate, the two chambers exchange bills for more work. A small group of negotiators from each chamber will meet just before the deadline to make final adjustments to the spending plan.
During House debate Wednesday, members asked few questions before voting 120-0 to pass the proposed education budget, which moves to the Senate.
Patsy Brumfield is spokeswoman for Better Schools, Better Jobs, a group that petitioned to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this November to require full funding of MAEP.
“Starving our K-12 schools of adequate funding will never produce enough well educated students to make substantial improvements in Mississippi’s economic future,” Brumfield said in a statement Wednesday. “Resources do make a difference in student achievement.”
House members changed budget bills for other programs Wednesday to seek pay raises for state employees who haven’t received one recently. Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said he has lent money to some low-paid state employees in his district so they could shop for their children.
Holland, who owns funeral homes, said it’s a shame that some state workers are struggling to pay for basics.
“When they go in Piggly Wiggly, they pay the same amount for a loaf of bread that I do,” he said.
Online: House Bill 1536 http://bit.ly/1Dsn53S
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.