Under the Dome, Week 2 | Hurry Up and Wait

I don’t know all of you yet, but I love you. You know this because I worked on Martin Luther King Day. It’s a holiday Mississippi only began recognizing because a Black legislator recommended adding it to an already established state holiday—Robert E. Lee Day—since it wouldn’t cost the state any additional money. (It was already a federal holiday, of course, but the state claimed it couldn’t afford to add an additional day off to its calendar. It took years and filibusters to get it done. See? I love you.) So I spent my holiday honoring the life, legacy and powerful influence of Dr. King at the Capitol. I’m not bitter. Seriously. Remember the deadline for introduction of bills was January 15 in the Mississippi Legislature.

As of yesterday, lawmakers had introduced more than 1,000 bills in the House and 300 bills in the Senate. Most have been referred to committees, and we will see what happens when committees convene and pass, amend and pass or ignore. Committee is where some bills go to die their first death. But here’s the thing: Zombie bills could come back to life. It’s not gone until it’s dead, dead, dead! More about those pesky policy terms in next week’s column, as we approach the next set of deadlines.

Education IN Mississippi: What Is It Good For?
Without proper funding, not much.

We waited and waited for the education bill (at least a decent preview) and finally got a glance at the 250+ page turner of changes that would drastically change funding across the state and ultimately end up underfunding school districts that are already chronically underfunded by billions. (This is inevitable because we have refused year after year to fund what the law adopted by the legislature via the Mississippi Adequate Program. Adequate produces stellar results, right?)

A New Jersey-based group popped on the scene last year to save us from ourselves with an end all, be all education funding that would level funding for all children. Well,  it seems that bill went home with several members of the legislature for summer reading and tweaking to make the proposal and now looks like the New Jersey-based EdBuild’s proposal. According to the Mississippi Association of Educators, HB 957 is EdBuild’s bootleg version and is missing a few key elements:

  • Will not require additional funding for public schools, which is currently lower than what neighboring states provide for public schools, keeping Mississippi children behind;
  • Contains no objective formula for determining the base student cost;
  • Does not require funding to keep pace with inflation and makes no provision to consider a recalculation for seven years;
  • Projects the increase in funding over the next seven years is less than the increase in funding this legislature has provided K-12 during the last six years;
  • Harms low-income school districts disproportionately, which punishes those children in poverty;
  • Uses Census data as the poverty measure (census data counts all children who are residents of the district, including those who are home-schooled and in private schools, meaning the poverty measure of a community is based on an overall higher income population than that of the public school district itself; and Census data is known to undercount low-income households, even EdBuild reps agreed it is a faulty measure);
  • Imposes severe financial penalties on school districts with an attendance rate lower than 93 percent on days auditors make two unannounced “count” visits read more; and
  • Inflicts serious financial consequences on districts that exceed the required student-teacher ratio (ignoring the impact of teacher shortages; does offer possibility of waiver or exemption).

Late Breaking
EdBuild scheduled public presentation that would likely expose the differences between the proposal and the HB 957 that was to happen today at 4:30 pm was cancelled by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves anything to hide? Petty much?

Staying Engaged: The Year of the Woman
The Equal Pay Mississippi Campaign has seen much success, so far, this legislative session and is working with legislators on a bipartisan bill aimed at strengthening women’s economic security.

Due to inclement weather, Equal Pay Mississippi Advocacy Day at the Capitol scheduled for today, hosted by The Equal Pay Mississippi Coalition has been postponed.  Contact cwelchlin@mschildcare.org for more information.

Next Up
We’ll give you an update on bills that make it out of committee in advance of the January 30 deadline for committees to report on bills that have been referred to by each chamber to their assigned committees. You can also expect a list of bills we intend to pay special attention to—ones we’re fully behind and those that just gotsta go—in Mississippi and our target states. Until soon …

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