Legislators talk education, infrastructure at ADP forum

The Mississippi Adequate Education Program formula, which was adopted by the Legislature 20 years ago, doesn’t include everything districts are mandated to provide students, so it is not an efficient way to distribute funds, Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg, said. Literacy coaches, Pre-K education, the Educable Child Program, dropout prevention and even teacher supplies are some of the items not covered by MAEP.

“So many things have been added to educational spending that are outside the formula,” he said. “What often people don’t understand is it takes around $2.4 billion to fully fund MAEP. In the last two years, we have been funding (education) at about $2.2 billion.”…

…Sen. Billy Hudson, R-Hattiesburg, said the older bridges were made from wooden cross ties that are rotting. Today’s bridges are made of concrete and steel, which are much more durable. However, the bulk of those bridges and many roads that need repairs are in the counties’ jurisdictions, and not enough money is getting to the counties to make the needed repairs. Funding road and bridge repairs is a matter of safety, but it also is a matter of improving the economy, especially in agriculture.

Hudson said he is going to propose an increase for the state’s fuel tax, which is one of the lowest in the nation — in his estimation between 5 cents and 10 cents per gallon. The state’s current fuel tax is 18.4 cents per gallon.

“I don’t want to raise taxes, but we’ve got to do something about it,” he said. “I think we’ve got to do it, and we’ve got to do it now. We can’t keep waiting.”

Hattiesburg American