Under the Dome, Week 3 | Terror from the Gunnderdome

“The road out of poverty runs by the schoolhouse”  – Former Mississippi Governor William Winter  

We could use several of Beyoncé’s most popular song titles to describe the themes for this week’s update: “Irreplaceable,” “Drunk in Love,” “Déjà Vu,” You choose. Ideally, the comparison would end there. Beyoncé is an entertainer who’s paid handsomely for her killer songs and tireless live performances. In contrast, our legislature is paid by taxpayer dollars, and come 2019, if you don’t like the job that elected officials are doing, you can vote for someone that more squarely aligns with your ideals and those of your community.

Education and the proposed spending formula was the hot-button issue debated on the House floor. Before we recap that debate, an abbreviated history lesson on how we got here in the first place is beyond necessary. (This isn’t a complete history lesson on Education in Mississippi, of course; it’s just a snapshot.)

  1. Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka – A 1954 landmark Supreme Court case and decision determined “separate but equal” education and services offered no real equity in segregated schools. In fact, it determined, things weren’t equal at all. Schools across the nation were mandated to end segregation and welcome students of all races the opportunity and access to education that all white children were afforded—the same education, books, teachers, extracurricular activities that had been afforded white children for decades.

In Mississippi, unlike (or maybe just like) some other states, this caused a disturbance amongst the white community. “How dare those negro children be allowed to attend the same schools as their children?” Many Delta counties refused to abide by the law. In comes the newly formed white supremacist organization known as the Citizen’s Council who sponsored private academies and private schools followed. The history and resistance to funding education in Mississippi for any school district, which is primarily Black remains a problem today. In essence, there was what exists today,  and it has managed to do what was done more than 60 years ago—continue the inequitable treatment of children. This is particularly apparent in rural Mississippi where poverty has created a new type of segregation and education decisions made in the Capitol rarely lead to pathways out of the persistent poverty that has existed long before Jim Crow was law.

  1. Fast forward to 1997, and the State of Mississippi Legislature introduces bipartisan Senate Bill 2275, an act to amend sections 37-151-5 and 37-151-7, Mississippi Code of 1972, to revise certain definitions under the Mississippi Adequate Education Program Funding Formula based on a base student cost funding level to clarify the instructional cost component of the base student cot, to clarify the adjustment for at-risk pupils, to provide an adjustment for add-on program costs, to provide a millage requirement for agricultural high schools and to clarify the required state effort; and for related purposes. This is currently known as the Mississippi Adequate Education Program or MAEP. Click here for the full explanation of MAEP as described by the Mississippi Department of Education.
  2. In 20 years, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program has only been funded twice. As a result, education has suffered greatly, and advocacy organizations fight tooth and nail to ensure some semblance of full funding is in play each legislative session. Fast forward to last week …
  3. It seems as though a few members of the Legislature got paid to drink the arsenic-laced Kool-Aid that would make killing public education, as we know it, a good idea. The New Jersey-based EdBuild recommendation from the last session was chopped, diced and introduced in the form of House Bill 957 also known as the Mississippi Uniform Per Student Funding Formula Act of 2018 double referred to both the Appropriations and Education committees, escaping both committees with only minor changes. At that point, it was presented by the new House Education Chairman Richard Bennett with the usual motion, but he stumbled (I’m being kind) to clarify the flurry of questions that came from various members of the House. Jay Hughes from Oxford aptly coined the hashtag #Gunnderfunded. It’s cute, but an understatement at best.
  4. Next up, the bill was held on a motion to reconsider, which was tabled and ultimately submitted to the Senate, where it will be referred to committee. There, it could be further amended, and if it makes it out of committee(s), go to the Senate floor for debate. I’ve gotta say it: Stay woke

Let’s further clarify the purpose of these updates. They are not feel good but to inform the public of people living in areas where decisions made by state elected officials who likely could care less about us. We get that, but also want to shine a light on those who get us—who want to see Black girls and women rise, and we appreciate those of any hue or gender for speaking up on our behalf.

All in all, 19 amendments were introduced and voted down. Here are a few House members that did the right thing and voted in favor of better funding for Mississippi’s future.

What’s next for education? We’re planning a TwitterStorm about HB 957 that will allow the opportunity for followers and friends to ask additional questions, giving us a chance to explain the legislative process and the bills that haven’t come up yet.

Below is a better idea of what we’re looking at as the next committee deadline on Jan. 30 quickly approaches. It is likely most of the 2,100 bills introduced may die, but we will keep you updated weekly on the status of each bill mentioned. This is in no way a comprehensive list. This is just a sample of the terrible legislation submitted for consideration. After the Jan. 30 deadline, we will have a much clearer picture.

Education
HB 198 – No remediation in college
HB 987 – New school funding formula
HB 1053 – Move the Department of Education under the leadership of the governor

Health
HB 1227 – Medicaid Waivers – creates a barrier to the services currently provided and would likely result in the removal of many individuals on the program under medical care.
HB 1481 – Medicaid Limitation of Services – a technical bill would eliminate or reduce services for recipients.

Reproductive Rights
HB 45 – Would deem abortion services illegal
HB 226 – Ban abortions at six weeks

Women’s Equal Pay, Will it See the Light of Day?

Mississippi has an opportunity to increase women’s wages by passing Equal Pay legislation this session. We need a public outcry to get HB 717 and HB 1257 out of committee. Please contact Chairman Mark Baker of at 601.359.3770 and show your support for the two Equal Pay bills to be brought up in committee. Women make $9,000 less than men in Mississippi. We have the power to change this! Read this great piece on Equal Pay for women that explains the issue more in depth.

Staying Engaged
Monday, January 22, 2018
Bingo and Bills – PPYL Legislative Update
5:30 PM · The Flamingo | 3011 N. State St., Jackson

Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Ideas on Tap: “Emerging Mississippi” in Politics and Policy
5:30 PM · Hal & Mal’s | 200 Commerce St., Jackson

Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Free Film Screening
5:30 PM · Russell C. Davis Planetarium | 201 E. Pascagoula St., Jackson

Next
We give you an update on bills that make it out of committee in advance of the Jan. 30 deadline to report on bills that have been referred to by each chamber to their assigned committees. Until soon …

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