What on earth is going on? Mississippi’s Senate just rushed through a bill that would make major changes to Mississippi’s school funding system, the MAEP, with very little advanced warning or discussion. The bill, passed unanimously, was hardly even debated.
If our elected representatives are serious about making big changes to education funding, why wait until the tail end of the legislative session? If we are to spend hundreds of millions more dollars on the education system, do we not owe it to the taxpayer to at least discuss how that money is to be allocated?
The MAEP, or to give it its full name, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, has been inadequately funded for far too long. Were the Senate’s proposal to become law, it would be only the third or fourth time in three decades that MAEP has been fully funded.
But why now? Why rush such an important measure through the Senate with so little discussion? Why change a funding system that is already hideously complex and convoluted, without discussing how to reduce its complexities with those that have to work with it?
I can’t help but think this is not really about improving education in our state. It is political posturing in an election year.
Various candidates for office want to look like they are on the side of teachers. They appear willing to rush through legislation that they know has little chance of passing in the House in order to look like the good guys – and wrongfoot their rivals.
Forgive me for being a little cynical, but I wonder if when the Senate passed this bill it really did so expecting the measure to become law? Or, as seems likely, are they expecting the House to say ‘no’? If they did it expecting the bill to fail, then it seems like a pretty expensive press release.
Proposing to shovel more money into the school system in an election year is not going to fix our state’s education.
Over the river in Arkansas, the new Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders shows how these things should be done. She has outlined detailed, well-considered plans for change, inviting a coalition of different groups to engage with her proposals. She did not wait until the end of the legislative session to announce significant changes.
Gov Sanders is proposing to put a lot more cash into their school system. So much so, in fact, that by 2025 Arkansas teachers will have a minimum salary of $50,000 a year. But at the same time, Governor Sanders will give every family in the state control over their share of their kid’s tax dollars.
Mississippi leaders should be using any additional education funding as leverage to secure those kinds of changes to empower parents. Our state legislature should be the place to make carefully considered law, not ammunition for electioneering.
What we have instead is positioning and posture. This is short-term virtue signaling, not the long-term thinking we need to raise education standards in this state. Mississippi deserves better.