Education STILL Underfunded

Lawmakers did the political equivalent of a high-five March 26 when they reached a deal on the state's $4.5 billion budget.

Budget negotiators agreed to a plan that would include a 5-percent pay hike for higher education instructors, plus $100 million in state spending on universities and junior colleges over last year. With extra cash coming in from the federal government and increased revenue from taxes on new construction, legislators also managed pay raises for other state employees to the tune of an extra $83 million over last year.

They even ended up with a little petty cash left over—about $347,000.

But the good news did not extend to pleasing supporters of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.

"I'm extremely disappointed," said Nancy Loome, a volunteer network coordinator of The Coalition for Children & Public Education. "Clearly those funds were available. We received significantly more from the federal government for Katrina help than we anticipated. Our revenues were way up, and yet they chose not to do that."

"I know people in the House who said MAEP funding was going to be their top priority," said Rep. George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg. "It doesn't look like it anymore."


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