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House bill gives additional funds to area schools

An education funding bill approved by the House ofRepresentatives Tuesday provides an additional $2 million for theMississippi School of the Arts and over $4 million more to areaschool districts, Lincoln County lawmakers said.

Dist. 92 Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett did not have an exact figure onthe arts school’s funding level, but he said it would be more thanthe current year. The school opened last August with its firstclass of juniors and is scheduled to have junior and senior classesnext year.

“We’re not in good shape, but we’re in shape and still going,”Barnett said.

Also, Dist. 53 Rep. Bobby Moak said the education bill providesmore money for area school districts than what was recommended byGov. Haley Barbour from an earlier Legislative Budget (LBR)proposal.

According to Moak, the House plan provides $10.41 million to theBrookhaven School District, an increase of $1.12 million over theLBR plan. The Lincoln County School District would be in line for$11.23 million, which is $1.09 million above the LBR plan.

Also, Moak said the Lawrence County School District would get$8.65 million, an increase of $973,836 over the earlier plan. TheFranklin County School District would receive $6.48 million, whichis up $844,782 from the legislative budget proposal.

“I’m proud the House considered education a priority during theappropriation process,” Moak said. “We have provided operationalfunds in order that pay raises are in place to the extent agreed toby earlier sessions of the legislature, fully-funded insurance foremployees and alleviated fears that local jobs will beavailable.”

The House-passed bill goes to the Senate for consideration.Senate leaders, however, have questioned figures and fundingsources used in the House bill.

Barnett was uncertain of the education funding bill’s future inthe Senate. Any differences in legislation passed by the twochambers would have to be addressed later in the session duringconference action.

“The House and Senate are like two foreign countries,” Barnettsaid.

Regarding the arts school, Barnett said he spoke with Rep. Randy”Bubba” Pierce, chairman of the House Education Committee, andreviewed funding plans Tuesday. Barnett said the state is providingfunding, but more is needed in the form of privatecontributions.

“We’ve got money to keep going, but we want money to expand,”Barnett said.

With the new funding, Barnett indicated the school could be in alittle better position next year now that it is up and running.

“We had a lot of start up costs last year that we don’t havethis year,” Barnett said.

Also, Barnett said Speaker of House Bill McCoy said he wants tospeak with Barnett and Pierce about the long-term future of thearts school. The Mississippi School of Math and Science would alsobe included in the discussions, Barnett said.

“We plan on doing that next week,” Barnett said.