Imagine for a moment your total household income is $60,000. You and your spouse work hard to bring home the bacon, and you have children to support and to educate. Imagine at the beginning of each year, your household receives an annual bill for the family’s annual education costs. You open the bill and hurry to the bottom line. To your amazement, the bill totals more than half your $60,000 annual income. That leaves less than half your total income, less than $30,000, for the rest of your yearly needs. You pause to consider the high cost; you have a lengthy debate about the issue. But in the end you decide education is so important to your household that you prepare to tighten your belt and budget the more than $30,000 to cover the kids’ annual schooling. Somehow you’ll manage to figure out how to budget wisely for the rest of your family’s needs for the year.
Now imagine that your neighbors hear about your predicament. Instead of sending notes of encouragement, your neighbors get angry. They organize a community action group, and at the beginning of each year they begin a campaign berating you and promising to hold you accountable for shortchanging the kids. Why can’t you and your spouse spend more than $30,000 on education? Why can’t you earn more, or cut other areas so as to dedicate more to the priority of education? Even the press gets wind of it, and they begin to write articles lamenting the underfunding of your children’s education. Finally some neighbors band together and file a lawsuit against you. How dare you underfund education?
Honestly, on the facts of the hypothetical, could any reasonable person claim you were “underfunding” your children’s education?
Yet this is more than a hypothetical story. In fact, multiply the $60,000 annual income until it becomes the State’s $6 billion annual budget, and this is the true story about the level of education funding for the household that is the State of Mississippi.
Recently, a lawsuit was filed against the State challenging Mississippi’s entire school system, alleging, among other things, a “systemic indifference to public schools” (see page 25 of the complaint): Recent press articles related to this and other lawsuits have again lamented the “underfunding” of education. Even CNN got in on the action with this May 24, 2017 report titled “Lawsuit alleges Mississippi deprives black children of equal education”
Today, MS Truth Journal is releasing this spreadsheet showing the level of education funding by amount and by percent of the total State budget over the last eight fiscal years. The chart includes a breakdown by K-12, IHL, and Junior Colleges. Currently, combined education funding stands at $3.3 billion out of a total $6.0 billion state budget. As a percent, the spending levels equate to 53.38% of the State’s General Fund, or 55.18% when total State Support funds are taken into account. K-12 education funding alone totals over 40%.
In dollars, K-12 funding has grown by over $200 million from a low of $2.3 billion in FY 2012 to $2.5 billion for the coming fiscal year. Total education including K-12, IHL, and junior colleges has grown from $3.1 billion to $3.3 billion in that same period of time.
According to the Mississippi Department of Education’s website, the specific school districts mentioned in the complaint, Jackson Public Schools and Yazoo City School District, are receiving formula-prescribed allocations of state dollars in the amount of $125.3 million and $12.6 million, respectively. JPS, the second largest district, is receiving the second largest amount of funding. Just yesterday, this analysis was published by Jackson Jambalaya:
Do these facts suggest Mississippi is underfunding or unfairly funding public education? You be the judge.
MS Truth Journal