Mississippi Funding in Comparison to Other States
“Thank God for Mississippi,” an adage that has been around for years, being used by residents of other states to make up for their poor educational, health, or poverty rankings by knowing at least they aren’t as low as Mississippi’s rankings. When did this saying become acceptable?
The University of Mississippi out-of-state student population is roughly 42.4% of the overall student body. Tennessee, Texas, and Georgia have the largest number of students coming to Ole Miss, making up 18.4% of the out-of-state community. Between these four states public education systems, the Mississippi public school system has the lowest percentage of college educated (30%), the lowest ranked for receiving an education nationally (#45) and the lowest ranked for college readiness (#49). When comparing all four states guesstimated state spending budgets for 2018, we see of Mississippi’s $17.9 billion budget, $2.9 billion of that goes towards education (16%). Of Tennessee’s $26.9 billion budget, $5.5 billion of it goes to education (21%). Of Georgia’s $39.1 billion budget, $7.9 billion goes towards education (20%). Lastly, of Texas’s $122 billion budget, $27.6 billion goes to education (23%).
What makes education in Mississippi incomparable to other states? The stigma of Mississippi education first comes from the lack and inconsistency of state funding. The Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) was passed in 1997 to provide an acceptable education to every and any Mississippi student no matter their financial situation, along with a sufficient amount of school supplies and resources to ensure a quality education. The MAEP provides funding for employee salaries, retirement, insurance, textbooks and other materials, transportation, the special education, vocational, gifted and alternative programs as well as other essential operational costs to keep public schools viable.
Section 201 of the Constitution of Mississippi states, “The Legislature shall, by general law, provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of free public schools upon such conditions and limitations as the legislature may prescribe.” So why is the MAEP in a constant battle with the state to provide appropriate funding? Why did the state’s executive office remove $20 million from the funding program which is what provides all the public state schools with appropriate resources aiding to students’ academic success? Isn’t it unconstitutional for the state to not fully provide for the education of its students?
“If Mississippi ever wants to climb in the national playing field of education then the first step in that ladder is to provide funding and people who have been compensated adequately in order to achieve any progress.” Says Rachel West, Professor for The Meek School of Journalism and New Media and Oxford resident.
Investing money in education is essential in creating a brighter future for all children. It is disconcerting we continue to see the education budget lacking within the Mississippi public school system, especially in comparison to other states. We can only hope that the appropriate steps to creating a better education for young students will be met and the saying, “Thank God for Mississippi” can finally be eliminated.