Local legislators and educators disagree on new legislation

Local legislators and educators disagree on new legislation

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - On Tuesday, the Mississippi State Senate voted to send Governor Phil Bryant a $2.5 billion K-12 school spending plan.

Local educators and state senators from the Pine Belt area are not seeing eye-to-eye on this legislation.

"We are putting $109.9 million in the classroom year after year, so I think this is a great day for public education,” said Lt. Governor Tate Reeves.

The recent vote shows the majority of the State Senate agrees with Reeves.

“It will be the largest education budget in state history, so to say that we are making education a priority is truly the case,” said District 41 State Senator Joey Fillingane.

Local educators disagree by saying the increase in funding from House Bill 1536 is misleading

“It is a lot of money and it does possibly exceeded the total amount that they have ever given to K-12 education, but I think it's important for people to realize that it really has the pay raise inside of it,” said Laurel Superintendent of Education Chuck Beningo. “That's something teachers deserve, but when it comes to operational money we still will probably only be getting in the $40 million range.”

Leaderships said they are doing all they can to meet their obligation to provide adequate education.

“There are those that criticize every move the legislature makes, but here are the facts,” said Reeves. “We are going to spend $270 million more than just four years ago. We are making great progress as it relates to funding.”

The legislation leaves Mississippi schools over $200 million short of the amount demanded by Mississippi Adequate Education Program to provide an average level of education.

“We have had a short fall with the formula for three years by five million annually,” Lamar County Superintendent Tess Smith. “So we are to a point now where we are desperate and I hate to say it like that, but we are.

“Education has been a priority, have we fully funded MAEP no, but I hope one day we will be able to,” said District 43 State Senator Phillip Gandy.

Reeves said he is confident that Governor Phil Bryant will sign the bill which means the funding would go into effect July 1 for the 2016 fiscal year.