Education Budget to See Increase
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2005 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Mississippi’s K-12 schools will share a spending increase in fiscal 2007 that includes new money for leadership development and increased state aid for school districts.
State spending for schools will rise to $2.3 billion, or an increase of nearly 6 percent over the current fiscal year. The total fiscal 2007 state budget is $4.8 billion.
A significant chunk of the K-12 increase will go toward the state’s adequate education program, which is the formula-driven program through which most state aid is allotted to districts.
Fiscal 2007 spending in that category will rise over current levels by $123 million, or 5.4 percent, to $2 billion. While some of the aid will go toward employee health-care and retirement funds, districts can use the aid to raise teachers’ salaries or to meet other local priorities.
In other areas, lawmakers allocated $2 million for a new program to help train superintendents, principals, and other school leaders. Another $1 million was appropriated to enhance the state’s virtual high school program. Lawmakers also established a statewide dropout-prevention effort.
“This was really a calm session, in that it didn’t deal much with K-12 funding until the end,” said Michael W. Waldrop, the executive director of the Mississippi School Boards Association.
He complimented the legislature on the spending increases, but noted the state’s basic-aid formula is still as much as $150 million short of full funding.
Lawmakers also provided relief to school districts hit by Hurricane Katrina. For example, a revised statute lets districts borrow up to 50 percent of their local budgets to cover local revenue shortfalls and pay back the loans over seven years. Previously they could borrow 25 percent and repay it over three years.
Vol. 25, Issue 39, Page 26