Meeting to rally support for full education funding

Published 5:00 am Thursday, October 19, 2006

Educators and parents are scheduled to gather tonight in aregional community meeting at the Brookhaven High School auditoriumto promote full funding for the state’s Mississippi AdequateEducation Program.

The meeting, sponsored by the Coalition for Children and PublicEducation, begins at 6 p.m. and is expected to last approximatelyone hour.

“Essentially, it’s just to discuss the importance of communitysupport for the full funding of the MAEP,” said Brookhaven SchoolDistrict Superintendent Lea Barrett. “It’s an informationalmeeting. We hope to clarify some of the issues that surroundMAEP.”

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One misconception, Barrett said, is that education is presentlybeing funded at 60 percent of the state’s income.

“That’s not true,” she said. “It’s 60 percent of the generalfund and 30 percent of the state budget.”

The primary purpose of the MAEP is to insure that everyMississippi child is afforded an adequate educational opportunitywithout regard to where the child lives in the state. The StateAccountability System defines adequate education. The legislaturefelt that a program such as MAEP was necessary to preventlitigation that many other states have faced or were facing. Theprogram uses a formula to determine what amount of state fundingshould be allocated to education each year.

Legislators passed the program into law in 1998, but it has onlybeen fully funded once.

“MAEP is an implied contract and the state should uphold theircommitments,” Barrett said. “It’s important for the state tofulfill its obligations because when that doesn’t happen thedistricts have to look locally for that funding.”

Lincoln County School District Superintendent Terry Bristeragreed.

“We can’t continue to go at the rate we’re going each year -where it gets funded less and less – because it puts more on thelocal community, who have to fund that cut,” Brister said.

Another issue about MAEP that the public often does notunderstand is that although state funding for education continuesto increase each year it is not offsetting increased costs. Eachdollar not included in the MAEP is a dollar not being used bettereducate the state’s children.

“The education budget may be getting more funding each year, butit’s not going up at the same rate as the costs,” Brister said.

In addition to normal increases in areas like gasoline and othersupplies, he said the federal and state government often mandatesnew programs or procedures without issuing the appropriations tofully fund them.

“They create the programs and put all these stipulations onthem, but they don’t cover their costs,” Brister said. “It addsup.”

Both superintendents are encouraging their faculty and parentsto attend the proactive grassroots rally. The meeting is designedto engender popular public support prior to the state’s next budgetprocess.

“I’m encouraging my principals to get some people involved andsee what they have to offer,” Brister said. “I would like toencourage anyone who can to attend.”

Brookhaven High School Principal Susan Chapman attached a flyerfor the meeting to the students’ nine weeks report cards, whichwere issued Monday.

Teachers and administrators across the Brookhaven district useda variety of methods to inform the public of the meeting, Barrettsaid.

Unlike the city district, Brister said the county district isrelying on verbal messages and word of mouth to inform the publicof the meeting.