“Robbing Peter to Pay Paul” should never be confused with optimum problem solving.
Yet, Mississippi may be perilously posed to do just that where public education is concerned. I am, of course, referencing Initiative 42, which will be voted upon by Mississippians on Nov. 3. It is a referendum calling for the full funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) under any circumstances, meaning whether the State (based on tax revenues) can afford it or not.
I can’t imagine anyone arguing over the merits of stronger support for our public school children and teachers. It’s obvious that the Legislature favors increased K-12 funding, witness the $110 million new dollars appropriated to public schools for FY16 inclusive of a guaranteed faculty pay increase. And the Legislature’s bolstering of public school coffers didn’t just start last session. On the contrary, from FY2000-2015, state appropriations on a per student basis increased about 50 percent for K-12. In contrast, community college funding per student during that same time frame decreased over 14 percent, while university support declined almost 8 percent.
That said, it’s inarguable that full funding of MAEP has rarely been achieved. It’s a geometrically progressive formula that some state leaders would describe as “chasing a rabbit that you never quite catch.” Therefore, MAEP could be characterized more accurately as an aspiration rather than an absolute.