Issues affecting Mississippi stand at the center of this year’s campaigns for United States senator, and few would have predicted that federal spending for our state’s public schools, community colleges and universities would rise to passion and prominence.
The Republican primary, which has a June 24 runoff between incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and state Sen. Chris McDaniel, has become a battleground over the role of $800 million in federal funds in Mississippi’s $3.2 billion K-12 education budget, as well as an additional $700 million spent on the state’s community colleges and universities.
We editorially criticized McDaniel’s statement opposing federal funding for education when it was reported in April, and Cochran supporters have appropriately, if belatedly, made it an issue in the runoff.
McDaniel has offered no way to replace that approximately $1.5 billion in federal funds coming into the state to support its education system at all levels. He has recklessly suggested that the state could absorb those drastic cuts without any serious impact.
The logical fall-back position to replace $800 million for K-12 education (which Sen. Cochran and others helped direct toward Mississippi in policy and legislative language) is by turning to the state and to local school districts for additional tax revenue – in other words, a local tax increase to make up for what is already ours but which McDaniel would reject.