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School bills good start; more work to be done

We want to join Gov. Ronnie Musgrove in praising legislators fortheir quick work on and approval of some very ambitious educationfunding bills.

The governor had asked the legislature to allocate about 62percent of the state’s anticipated $3.5 billion for education andto fund education before anything else. They fulfilled bothrequests, and he will sign the bills this week.

The legislation will put an extra $236 million into all levelsof education, from kindergarten through universities. Programs suchas the Library Commission and Mississippi Educational Televisionare also funded. This expands the $2.1 billion that lawmakersalready planned to put into education. Spending cuts that communitycolleges and institutions of higher learning would have faced underthe Legislature’s original budget recommendations will berestored.

Of course, money doesn’t grow on magnolia trees, but it has tocome from somewhere. This particular legislation takes money fromseveral sources, including lawsuit settlements and other stateagencies’ budgets. Some of it is expected to be paid back later,and some it will not be, said Senate Appropriations Chairman JackGordon, D-Okolona. Some lawmakers did complain that problems arelikely down the road because of “one-time money” used to back thefunding.

The bills passed last week won’t fix all that ails Mississippi’spublic education system, but they certainly won’t hurt. It will beup to school officials on both the state and local levels to seethat Mississippi gets the most out of these education dollars.Anything else short-changes students, teachers and taxpayers.

We are happy to see the legislature get down to some seriousbusiness so early in the current session. We are also happy to seecooperation between the lawmakers and this governor, who’ve notseen eye-to-eye on much in the past. But, we can’t help but wonderif the fact that this is election year is the biggest motivatingfactor. Only time will tell.

Education is funded, but the lawmakers and the governor stillhave to deal with deficits in Medicaid, the department ofcorrections and the department of human services. Much work remainsto be done.