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Mississippi’s Funding for Schools Continues Downward Trend

October 26th, 2016

Cuts Harm Future Workforce and Put Businesses and Communities at Risk

Mississippi’s investment in K-12 education — which is crucial for communities to thrive and the state economy to offer broad opportunity — has declined dramatically in recent years. Mississippi is one of 19 states in the country that continued to cut general support for schools this year, even as the economy recovers. Mississippi has cut general aid to K-12 education by 9.2 percent per student since 2008, a deeper cut than 37 other states, according to a new report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C.

This erosion in support for K-12 education has damaging economic consequences for the state— both now and in the future. School cuts undermine promising education reforms such as reducing class sizes, improving teacher quality, increasing learning time, and expanding early childhood education. Mississippi schools still have 1,600 fewer teachers in the classroom since before the recession resulting in an increase in the state’s student to teacher ratio. This could make it harder for the next generation of American workers to compete for highly skilled jobs in the global economy—depriving local businesses of a well-trained workforce and a strong customer base, as well as hurting struggling families and communities.

Eight states have cut general funding per student by about 10 percent or more over this period. Five of those eight enacted income tax rate cuts costing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars each year rather than restore education funding.

“Cuts in support for schools are undermining our ability to educate Mississippi’s children – the next generation of American workers,” said Dr. Corey Wiggins, Director of the Hope Policy Institute. “The tax cuts enacted earlier this year will just make it harder. Unless we reverse course, our state’s economic growth is threatened.”

Sharp cuts in funding for schools weaken the economy in the long term. Quality elementary, middle and high school education provides a crucial foundation that helps children to succeed in college and in the workplace. Much of the money students earn as adults returns to the state economy through taxes, home purchases, and spending at local businesses. In addition, school budgets that force school layoffs or cut pay for teachers and other staff can reduce purchasing power and slow the pace of the recovery.

The report, After Nearly a Decade, School Investments Still Way Down in Some States, contains the most recent data on school funding currently available. The findings are based on data gathered from state education agencies and budget offices and verified with education finance experts in each state.  The report also includes analysis of data from the Census Bureau.

“At a time when the nation is trying to produce workers with the skills to master new technologies and adapt to the complexities of a global economy, states should be investing more — not less — so our kids get a strong education,” said Michael Leachman, director of state fiscal research at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and author of the report.

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