School & District Management

Analysis: Miss. Ed. Chief Aware of Funding Hurdles

By The Associated Press — December 21, 2009 2 min read

Incoming Mississippi Superintendent of Education Tom Burnham will resume duties as chief of K-12 public education during some of the toughest economic times in recent memory, and even he says it’s “intimidating.”

Burnham’s first day is Jan. 4, but he’s been on the job unofficially for weeks, monitoring developments as key legislators and Gov. Haley Barbour released spending proposals for the next fiscal year.

It’s a safe bet public education will have to fight harder for a share of state budget dollars. Burnham feels he’s up for the task since lobbying lawmakers isn’t foreign to him.

Burnham served as Mississippi’s education superintendent from 1992-1997, before leaving to become executive director of the Gulf Coast Education Initiative Consortium. He was hired last month after serving as dean of the School of Education at the University of Mississippi.

Burnham said he’ll tell lawmakers “education is an investment in the future. It has a tremendous return decades later. That will always be the approach I will take.”

But he’s also acutely aware of the challenges ahead.

“I would be less than candid if I didn’t say I was slightly intimidated by it,” Burnham said, referring to the state’s economy.

For the first five months of the current fiscal year, Mississippi tax collections are 7.3 percent below expectations. Figures recently released by the state Tax Commission show collections for the general fund, the main part of the state budget, were $129.8 million behind the original predictions for July through November.

Barbour has already cut $226 million from this year’s spending plan. That means most agencies have lost at least 5 percent of their budget, and Barbour has warned that more cuts could come.

The governor’s proposed spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2010, isn’t encouraging. Barbour’s funding for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, a formula used to decide how much money each district receives, is nearly 13 percent below this year’s level.

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee has recommended MAEP spending at about 6.3 percent below the current level.

Neither plan promises significant funding increases for a large number of agencies and programs. That means public education will be alongside many others jockeying for legislative support.

“When the pie gets smaller, the fight gets tougher,” said House Education Chairman Cecil Brown, a Democrat from Jackson who is also on the Budget Committee.

Brown said he’s been meeting with the education community, including superintendents, the school board association and advocacy groups.

“Everybody understands they’re going to have to take a share of the pain,” Brown said. “At the same time, we keep hearing from folks that we need to prioritize. Certainly, education is right there at the top of the priority.”

Many school districts are having trouble paying bills, said Nancy Loome, executive director of the Mississippi Parents Campaign, a group that lobbies on behalf of education issues.

She said several districts that had reserve money have spent most of it to cover budget cuts.

“In almost every school district, class size is starting to creep up. That will worsen as funding goes down. Some school districts have consolidated bus routes, field trips have been cut and arts programs cut or diminished,” she said. “They’re really trying to avoid laying off staff.”

Burnham said the public school system will have to make the best use of its resources, but “what we’re dealing with right now is unprecedented.”

Related Tags:

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Building Leadership Excellence Through Instructional Coaching
Join this webinar for a discussion on instructional coaching and ways you can link your implement or build on your program.
Content provided by Whetstone Education/SchoolMint
Teaching Webinar Tips for Better Hybrid Learning: Ask the Experts What Works
Register and ask your questions about hybrid learning to our expert panel.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Families & the Community Webinar
Family Engagement for Student Success With Dr. Karen Mapp
Register for this free webinar to learn how to empower and engage families for student success featuring Karen L. Mapp.
Content provided by Panorama Education & PowerMyLearning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

User Experience Analyst
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Senior Business Analyst - 12 Month Contract
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Senior Director Marketing
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Camelot Education
Coordinator of Strategic Partnerships
Camden, New Jersey, United States
Camelot Education

Read Next

School & District Management The Key to School-Based COVID-19 Testing: Cooperation of Parents and Communities
As schools launch broad testing to track cases of COVID-19, the success of their efforts relies on addressing the concerns of all concerned.
7 min read
Katie Ramirez, left, watches as her mother, Claudia Campos, swabs the mouth of her sister, Hailey, for a COVID-19 test at a testing site in Los Angeles on Dec. 9, 2020.
Katie Ramirez, left, watches as her mother, Claudia Campos, swabs the mouth of her sister, Hailey, for a COVID-19 test at a testing site in Los Angeles.
Jae C. Hong/AP
School & District Management Interactive A Year of COVID-19: What It Looked Like for Schools
This timeline offers a look at how a full year of living and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded.
Education Week Staff
13 min read
Elementary 1 teacher Melissa Vozar sits outside of Suder Elementary in Chicago to teach a virtual class on Jan. 11, 2021. The Chicago Teachers Union said that its members voted to defy an order to return to the classroom before they are vaccinated against the coronavirus, setting up a showdown with district officials who have said such a move would amount to an illegal strike.
Elementary 1 teacher Melissa Vozar sits outside of Suder Elementary in Chicago to teach a virtual class on Jan. 11, 2021. The Chicago Teachers Union said that its members voted to defy an order to return to the classroom before they are vaccinated against the coronavirus, setting up a showdown with district officials who have said such a move would amount to an illegal strike.
Anthony Vazquez/Chicago Sun-Times via AP
School & District Management Most Principals, District Leaders Predict Their Schools Will Be Fully In-Person This Fall
EdWeek Research Center surveys track the growing trend to get more students back in school buildings as soon as possible.
5 min read
Assistant Principal Janette Van Gelderen, left, welcomes students at Newhall Elementary in Santa Clarita, Calif on Feb. 25, 2021. California's public schools could get $6.6 billion from the state Legislature if they return to in-person instruction by the end of March, according to a new agreement announced Monday, March 1, 2021, between Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state's legislative leaders.
Assistant Principal Janette Van Gelderen, left, welcomes students at Newhall Elementary in Santa Clarita, Calif., last month. California's public schools could get $6.6 billion from the state if they return to in-person instruction by the end of March.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
School & District Management Opinion Will the Hybrid School Concept Continue After COVID-19?
In an effort to move from triage to transformation, schools should look at how they continue the hybrid model after the COVID-19 vaccine.
7 min read
Hybrid FCG
Shutterstock