UPDATE: The Senate also moved to adopt the conference report upon gaveling in later Monday evening.
The Mississippi House has approved the conference report for the Mississippi State Department of Education budget. HB 1387 appropriates $2,303,506,047 from the general fund, which is a $102 million or 4% increase from FY2021’s appropriation with $2.1 billion of that total which will go to expenses from the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP).
Out of the special funds will come $2,232,106,142, which will also be applied to Education expenditures.
“It was a good year for education. We are hopeful to maintain that but we don’t know because budgets change. But it’s a real good year for education because we’ve got money going into it,” said House Education Chairman Richard Bennett.
This budget includes the $51 million teacher pay raise ensuring that each teacher or assistant teacher in the state receives an increase of $1,000.
The Legislature also picked up the tab on the health insurance for state employees, including school personnel. This is an estimated total of $13 million for those teachers and staff members.
Teachers will receive up to $8 million in assistance for purchasing supplies for the classroom under this budget.
The Early Learning Collaborative, which Rep. Bennett said has really moved the needle for Mississippi, is up to just over $16 million, with an addition of $8 million this year.
The additional funds will allow for more funding to go toward D and F rated school districts for more math coaches ($5 million), early learning coaches ($1.5 million) and student assessments or WorkKeys ($1 million) in lieu of, or in addition to, the ACT. It also fully funded the Carl Perkins Career and technical education grant fund with $3.1 million.
Chairman Bennett said one goal for the Legislature over the past few years has been to beef up the Mississippi Student Information System (MSIS), a program the education department uses to keep its records. This year they were able to appropriate $7.6 million for that purpose. Bennett said upgrading this program will help avoid issues like they saw last session when they had the incorrect number of teachers in the system and therefore appropriated the incorrect amount of money for that round of raises.
“This is something that we’ve tried to do for years and years and years, and the money just was not there. It’s about a $10 million project. We are putting $7.6 million in it this year, hopefully we can come back and fund the rest,” said Bennett.
This will include upgrading teacher license efficiency.
Chairman of the Senate Education Committee Dennis DeBar said his chamber does plan to concur on the Education budget before end of the day on Monday.
Even with the great increase to the budget, MAEP still remains underfunded.
DeBar said lawmakers used the $25 million projected from the lottery this year to fund smaller projects throughout the education department, treating it as one time money. However, he hopes to be able to move recurring revenue around as soon as next year to see MAEP reach its cap.
“MAEP is still underfunded but is still a priority of ours. Right now, we are using the lottery money as one time money to fill in some gaps and holes so that next year if everything is going as we hope, then we’ll have a better idea of the recurring revenue that can fill those holes instead,” said DeBar.
Both Bennett and DeBar said it has been a pretty good year for education, which could mean lawmakers will need to come back next year and lower that number if there are budget restraints that arise.
However, Bennett said in addition to what the state is appropriating, there is a tremendous amount of money going to schools from the federal government.