Full educational funding goal must be achieved

Published 6:00 am Monday, March 20, 2006

An effort to phase in full funding for the Mississippi AdequateEducation Program cannot be a mere promise but must be a goal thatis achieved.

Previous yearly MAEP funding efforts lend credence to critics’contention that the phase-in plan is only a stalling tactic inanother year of competing budget interests.

Since its inception in 1997, MAEP has been fully funded onlyonce – and that was in 2003 during an election year. Theshortchanging has left MAEP about $188 million behind on the over$2 billion formula, which is designed to give school districtssufficient money to meet midlevel standards.

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House Education Committee Chairman Cecil Brown said the phase-inplan would make education funding a priority rather than MAEPhaving to scrap for “crumbs” as in years past. Gov. Haley Barbourhas said the phase-in plan is “reasonable and realistic.”

The phase-in plan also found support among DAILY LEADER readers.In last week’s online poll, albeit unscientific, readers favoredthe phase-in plan by a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent over fullMAEP funding.

Local school officials continue to advocate full funding forMAEP, but said they could accept the phase-in plan. The caveat,though, was that the phase-in likely will not allow for any neweducational programs or expansion of existing ones.

Whether phase-in funding is a realistic path toward full fundingor a setback to educational advancement really comes back tolawmakers’ ability to follow through on what they say they will do.In the coming years, legislators must resist any temptations tonegatively modify the plan or to extend the phase-in over moreyears.

Everyone associated with the subject says education is apriority. For legislators, their ability to follow though withpromised phase-in funding will determine if that is really thecase.