Democrats say public education needs full funding - - Jackson, MS

Democrats say public education needs full funding

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

It makes up the largest chunk of the state's budget and it's a sticking point at the state capitol as lawmakers crunch the numbers. Now, Democrats are joining together to support fully funding the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.

"If we want to find the money, we can find the money. It's a matter of choice. It's a matter of priorities," said Rep. Rufus Straughter, a Democrat from Belzoni.

It'll be a costly move which Republicans aren't on board with. House education chairman, Representative John Moore says it would money ill spent and not available.

"There's no evidence that throwing the money at the problem would help it," said Moore, a Republican from Brandon.

Moore says funding other areas, like charter schools and reading programs need to be focal points to improve education. Rep. Straughter says that only funnels money away from where it should be spent in the first place.

"I understand that money don't solve all problems, but I can tell you this, you got to have money to solve problems," said Straughter.

Currently the program, known as MAEP, is more than $300 million under-funded, which Representative Linda Whittington says has become tradition. It's only been fully funded twice since being created more than a decade ago, both during election years.

"It says when we go back home and we talk about it, we want our folks to know that yes, education is our top priority. Then we come back down here and we forget all about it," said Whittington, a Democrat from Schlater.

Whittington says at the very least a new budget should reflect some type of increased funding.

"We have more money this year than we had last year. Why not start incrementally meeting our obligation, which by law we are to do, to fully fund MAEP," said Whittington.

"Mathematically it's impossible," said House Appropriations Chairman, Representative Herb Frierson, a Republican from Poplarville.

Frierson says even with an anticipated increase in the general budget this year, it won't be nearly enough for full funding. Spending one time money to do it he says, would only lead to financial problems.

"If we had recurring dollars to fully fund MAEP, I would be one of the strongest advocates of it," said Frierson.

Democrats will hold a public hearing at the capitol on Monday to bring up their plan of action and where they believe the money for funding is. The hearing scheduled for 10am in room 113.

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