Mississippi leaders flunk when it comes to our schools

Sun Herald Editorial

TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALDPascagoula Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich says that district's newest schools are 20 years old.
TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALDPascagoula Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich says that district's newest schools are 20 years old.

The state of Mississippi once again has failed its schools. And its schools, as a consequence, will fall further behind.

The spin from Jackson is that education actually fared well in the past legislative session because it received level funding when other agencies had budgets cut. That is nonsense.

The state once again did not fully fund education, according to the formula set forth in its Mississippi Adequate Education Program.

The Education Department figures the state will miss the MAEP mark by $172 million statewide in the next school year. Coast districts will be underfunded by $22.2 million.

When public school supporters got a constitutional amendment on the ballot last year that would have forced the Legislature's to fully fund schools under the MAEP, the lawmakers countered with a counter-proposal designed not to fix the chronic underfunding of education in this state but to confuse the issue and scuttle the amendment.

And, they went around the state campaigning against Initiative 42, as the amendment effort was called. They also vowed to do better and perhaps come up with a better funding formula.

Instead, Republicans, in the supermajority after November's election and unstoppable in both houses of the Legislature, continued their march toward privatizing the school system. Empower Mississippi, one of the key lobbyists in the charter school movement, liked what the Legislature did to education in the past session so much it is throwing a party to celebrate.

"That's a much more expensive way of doing business," Pascagoula Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich said of charter schools as he made the case for school funding to the Sun Herald's Justin Vicory.

While lawmakers are fond of saying local schools should know best what their students need, they aren't listening to what school superintendents are saying on the Coast.

Many school districts, some of the best school districts in the state, are taxing local taxpayers to the limit of the law. Others say they may be forced by aging infrastructure, the need for cutting edge technology for students, and the desire to pay teachers competitive salaries to ask for property tax increases.

And they all say they're being shortchanged by the same lawmakers who warned them not to support Initiative 42 because it would mean money would be siphoned off from Coast districts by the poorer districts up north.

No wonder the Legislature tried to pass laws to freeze school superintendents' salaries across the state and to muzzle school officials.

Lawmakers were successful, though, in passing the largest tax cut package on the state's history.

Perhaps the tax cuts will lure more business to the state than a well-educated workforce would. We have our doubts.

This editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.