Senate Education Committee Chairman Dennis DeBar Jr., R-Leakesville, addresses lawmakers as they consider legislation during a committee meeting at the Mississippi Capitol in Jackson, Tuesday, March 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis - Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
The funds may be spent on any expenditures necessary to operate a public school district or charter school excluding administrative salary increases.
At the end of the 2023 Mississippi Legislative session, lawmakers met to determine how much money would be appropriated to state agencies and departments. Because an agreement on several appropriations bills had not been reached in time to adhere to the original deadline, the Legislature passed HCR 61, which extended the 2023 Regular Session on paper to April 5th and suspended deadlines for certain bills.
Among the bills that had to be brought back to life was House Bill 1613, the Mississippi Department of Education’s appropriations bill.
When an agreement had finally been reached between the chambers, State Senator Dennis DeBar (R), Senate Education Chairman, brought the conference report for HB 1613 before the Senate, only to have it recommitted soon after.
The second conference report was recommitted following concerns expressed by State Senators Barbara Blackmon (D) and Derrick Simmons (D) over a line-item appropriation for Lobaki, Inc. The report would have originally given some $300,000 to Lobaki, Inc., a virtual academy that is currently being sued for allegedly misspending federal welfare dollars. Both chambers quickly produced a new conference report without mention of Lobaki, Inc. The third conference report then passed both the House and Senate.
The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) budget totals around $2.94 billion. That means K-12 education in Mississippi will see a $104,038,546, or 3.51%, increase from Fiscal Year 2023. The subtotal for public education funding saw a $101,914,422 increase from Fiscal Year 2023, a 3.41% increase.
Click here to read the full conference report for H.B. 1613.
Among many other provisions, HB 1613 provides MDE with $100 million to distribute to public school districts and charter schools based on average daily enrollment or the total number of students enrolled for each day in each public school district or charter school divided by the total number of school days.
“These funds may be spent on any expenditures necessary to operate a public school district or charter school excluding salary increases for superintendents, assistant superintendents, or principals,” the bill states.
In a statement from Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann (R) on the 2023 Legislative Session, Hosemann said he is proud of the Senate’s earlier 52-0 commitment to fully funding the education of our children, a reference the Senate’s original attempt to add $181 million to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP).
“Our Senators’ leadership on this issue resulted in an additional $100 million for our schools, which will fund local supplements for teachers, classroom supplies, diesel for buses, and all the other things necessary to providing every child in Mississippi with an opportunity for a first-class education,” Hosemann said.
On Tuesday, Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn said the additional $100 million will allow schools to do whatever they need, except for increases in administrative salaries.
“We want this money to go into the classroom or to be used to enhanced the quality of education that they provide,” Gunn said.
READ MORE: Late-session MAEP revisions cause of concern for Governor Reeves, House leaders
Erica Jones, President of Mississippi Association of Educators (MAE), said the $100 million that was added for Mississippi’s public school classrooms and schools is a significant achievement.
“We are grateful for the support of our Representatives and Senators and look forward to working together with local school boards and local officials to ensure that this funding is allocated in a way that best serves the needs of our students, educators, and school staff,” Jones said. “We recognize that this funding is an important step towards stronger schools for a stronger Mississippi and that all of us must continue to advocate for our public schools in the long term.”
Jones said MAE is grateful for the legislative work that went into producing a budget bill that provides more funding for our public schools.
MAE also provided examples of how the additional funding can help students, such as: more instructional materials for hands-on learning and updated technology for student use, the upkeep and repair of classrooms and facilities, and additional funding for school programs like art and music education, vocational education, and gifted/special education.