Governor Announces More Cuts

posted 1/22/10

Governor Barbour announced that he is making additional across-the-board cuts to the current-year budget, including an additional 3.193%, or $77,238,979, cut to K-12 education for this school year.  Of that, $66.1-million is to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.  This brings the total K-12 education cut to this year's budget to 8.193%, or $193,490,566, a reduction in funds that will be devastating to many districts.  All areas of education are included in this cut, including an 8.193% cut to National Board Certified Teacher supplements.  The governor has required the Mississippi Department of Education to make up the cut to the Chickasaw Cession from the department's budget.

Schools are obligated by law to honor their existing contracts, including salaries for personnel, which make up 75-80% of their budgets.  It will be extremely difficult for schools to absorb cuts of this magnitude given these constraints.  Though districts have spent down their fund balances to avoid compromising the quality of education provided our children, class sizes have already risen, enrichment and tutorial programs have been reduced, and children are feeling the effects of earlier cuts in significant ways.  The reductions the governor made today will greatly exacerbate these problems, especially given that districts have far fewer dollars left in their fund balances to offset the cuts, and many districts have no reserves at all.  Click here to see how budget cuts are affecting our children.  Undermining the quality of education provided our children could cause our kids to miss out on fundamental knowledge gains that are required for them to keep pace with their peers in other states.  Those losses can never be made up completely in subsequent years.

There are still options available that would restore some of the funds cut from education.  Approximately $455-million in various reserve and contingency funds exist, and legislators can make an appropriation from these funds to reduce the cuts to our schools.  The state's Rainy Day Fund currently has available $235-million, the Health Care Trust Fund holds $220-million, and other pots of money exist as well.  We do not propose to drain these funds or even to spend them down considerably.  We do believe that a portion of these funds should be used to protect the quality of education provided our children and to prevent our school districts from falling into a deficit situation.

We are grateful to the House of Representatives for putting forth a good faith effort to provide the governor some of the additional cuts authority he requested while working to minimize cuts to our schools.  On Tuesday of this week, the House passed a bill that gave the governor additional authority to exempt certain agencies from cuts while requiring that he use a small portion of reserve funds to minimize cuts to other agencies.  The House bill could have prevented any additional cuts to K-12 education.  Unfortunately, that bill has been held up in the Senate Appropriations Committee since Tuesday.  We are deeply disappointed with Governor Barbour's unwillingness to compromise and with the Senate's unwillingness to act quickly to protect our schools and school children.

We are calling on the Senate to work with the House to develop a plan that restores some of the funds cut from our schools.

Click here to download a spreadsheet showing the cuts to all agencies for Fiscal Year 2010.