Education, mental health advocates rally against budget cuts - - Jackson, MS

Education, mental health advocates rally against budget cuts

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As lawmakers try to come up with a budget for the next fiscal year, they are being met with an outcry from people who will not stop until they're heard and to say these people were fired up is an understatement.

They were outright furious and fed up at the thought of more cuts and accused top elected leaders of playing politics with vital services.

"No more cuts. No more cuts."

That message was heard loud and clear Tuesday morning as education and mental health leaders lit up the State Capitol with protests of potential budget cuts.

"The children of this state and those in need of mental health services should not be singled out to balance a state budget," said Sam Bounds, Executive Director of the Miss. Assoc. of School Supervisors.

With the House and Senate already agreed to fund public education at the same level as last year, some people are taking aim at Governor Haley Barbour and selected lawmakers for wanting to make deeper cuts.

"On the current path we are on the future of K through 12 education is a train wreck waiting to happen," Bounds said.

"Our students are too important and too valuable to be neglected," said Kevin Gilbert, President, Miss. Assoc. of Educators. "Do the right thing. Stop the education cuts. Our students are paying the ultimate price."

Under his proposal, Gov. Barbour wants to cut public K - 12 education by an additional $30 million and mental health by about $17 million.

"As a taxpayer and a parent, I am furious and so are a whole lot of other folks," said Nancy Loome, Executive Director of The Parents' Campaign.

"It's time to stop saying education is the number one priority in our state but when it comes to putting something behind it you remend and continue to apply the pressure of your boots on the back of our children," Gilbert said.

Educators say they are not against cuts altogether, in fact they're pretty much use to them.

It's the number of cuts they do have the problem with.

Over the last several years K - 12 education has been cut by more than $300 million, causing many local school districts to raise taxes.

"There comes a time when we must say 'no more' and we are here today saying 'no more'," Bounds said.

Some lawmakers say there's enough money in reserve funds to properly fund public education and not have to make cuts.

"There's enough money to do it all," said Rep. Cecil Brown, (D) Jackson.

With the budget battle heating up, these people say they won't stop fighting until education and mental health are funded as true priorities.

"It's a disgrace to wait until the eleventh hour and balance the state budget on the backs of our children," said Phil Burchfield, Superintendent of Clinton Public Schools.

Lawmakers already missed the legislative deadline for a budget outline and it's unclear at this point if one will be in place by the time the regular session ends this Saturday.

That new budget year is set to begin July 1.

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