BILOXI, Mississippi — Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran moderated a panel discussion Monday on the need for the Mississippi Legislature to fully fund education in the state.
The panel was held during the annual Mississippi Municipal League conference being hosted in Biloxi this week at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum convention center.
At the heart of the discussion was the state’s shortfall in fully funding the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MASEP).
In her opening remarks, Moran noted the legislature has not fully funded MASEP since 2008. In the time since, schools statewide were shorted some $1.5 billion in funding which could have provided an additional 5,423 classroom teachers, according to the Mississippi Association of Educators.
“In my city of Ocean Springs, our school district has been shorted more than $16 million,” Moran said.
Rep. Cecil Brown of Jackson acknowledged that people are “sick of hearing we don’t have the money to fully fund education,” adding that next year schools will be shorted $257 million in state funding.
Brown said there are funds available to “chip away” at the education shortfall. He said by the end of this fiscal year the state will have a $480 million surplus.
“At a time when we’re severely underfunding education, that makes no sense,” Browns said.
Brown said the state legislature did approve $62 million for teacher pay raises this year, but allocated no money for other school district employees — janitors, teacher assistants, cafeteria workers, etc.
“Raises for those employees, if there were any, came straight out of the school district’s budget,” Brown said.
Rep. Derrick Simmons followed Brown and broke down what school districts around the state have lost since the legislature last fully funded MASEP in 2008.