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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Sunday, May 22, 2005

MAEP: Money Answers Everything, Pronto

[The Clarion-Ledger ran this column by Dot Ward of Madison, Miss., a former member of the Southern Regional Education Board, on May 14, 2005.]

I applaud Gov. Haley Barbour's call for an open and honest dialog on funding education. Too bad his appeal will fall on so many deaf ears.

The idea that Mississippi must "fully fund" education at a time when this state is facing a budget crisis is ludicrous. [Amen!]

Education spending in Mississippi is at an all-time high, as 62.44 percent of the 2005 budget will go to fund education. There has been nearly a 50 percent increase in education spending in the last five years and Mississippi ranks third in the nation in funding increases.

What the governor proposes in his education plan is a 4 percent increase in spending, yet he and others who oppose a tax increase so education can get a bigger cut of the pie are now accused of being against public education. That's untrue and unfair!

Instead of continually demanding more money, educationists need to look at ways to cut excessive education spending.

One huge savings could be achieved with district consolidation. Mississippi has 149 school districts-- far more than necessary. More school districts mean more administrative costs and employees.

According to a study done by the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, there are 62 percent more assistant principals and "supervisors" overseeing 12,000 fewer students than 10 years ago, with every category of K-12 spending except one growing at least 31 percent ahead of inflation during the same time period.

Even with schools operating with fewer state dollars than they say they need, the legislature gave huge salary increases to school superintendents last year. The average raise was $3,900 but 18 superintendents received an annual increase of $10,ooo or more, with two superintendents receiving salary increases of over $20,000.

When was the last time the average Mississippian got that kind of raise?

A bundle could be saved on travel expenses. Administrators, principals, school board members frequently attend education meetings like the one to be held in June at the Beau Rivage Casino [on the Mississippi Gulf Coast].

And printing expenses could be cut. I mean expensive, slick paper, full-color materials produced by the state Department of Education and local districts.

Legislators don't have the backbone when it comes to trimming fat from the education budget. The education establishment, led by the state Department of Education, the superintendents and school board associations, teachers unions and others who feed at the education trough, represents a huge and powerful lobby.

A new low was reached this year when school children were used in letter-writing campaigns and booed the governor from the steps of the state Capitol.

The scare tactics need to cease. The schoolhouse doors will be open next year and teachers will still have jobs-- without increasing the education budget.

In addition to education, there are other budgetary obligations that must be met like maintaining our highways, prison system, hospitals and debt retirement. Belt-tightening is in order and education is no sacred cow.


Blogger Michael Morrison said...

Please allow me to quibble about one point: the writer says the big bucks -- the majority of the state's budget dollars -- will go "to fund education."
May I suggest the proper wording is "to fund schools," and there is, alas, a very big difference.

Mon Jun 27, 11:10:00 AM CDT  

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