When we talk about education funding in Mississippi, we most often talk about the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. It was enacted to make sure that all school districts in the state receive enough funding to provide an adequate education for our children. However, the program has been plagued by underfunding. MAEP has been underfunded by a cumulative amount of $1.3 billion since 2008—the last year MAEP was funded and the first year of the recent recession.
Underfunding MAEP means that appropriations are below the amount that the formula says is needed to provide an adequate education. Year after year it changes based on costs. As it gets larger and funding has remained mostly level in nominal dollars (dollars not adjusted for inflation) the gap between the actual funding level and full funding has grown.
What the new study show us is that if we adjust for inflation state funding for education has not only fallen way below the amount required for full funding, it has actually decreased a total of 13.1% since the recession began.
This decrease means that in real dollars, Mississippi now spends $648 less per k-12 student than before the recession.
The recession has meant less state revenue, but instead of taking a balanced approach that includes raising new revenues, lawmakers chose a cuts only approach that has eroded our state’s vital services, including our education system. With state revenues beginning to recover (the last budget year ended with a $267 surplus), now is the time to reinvest in our education system.
The Center’s full report can be found at: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=4011.