A full court press
April 20, 2004
As the 2004 session of the Mississippi Legislature enters its most sensitive stage that's the last few weeks when money actually gets appropriated educators are pulling out all the stops in the political battle for the ears and votes of state legislators. State Superintendent of Education Henry L. Johnson and other state and local administrators and teachers are making the point that K-12 needs another $160 million to make ends meet next fiscal year.
Johnson linked funding to student achievement, stressing the need to continue progress in reading/language arts, mathematics and other academic indicators. Judy Rhodes, director of accountability for the Mississippi Department of Education, said steep increases in school costs are often beyond local districts' control. Lauderdale County sent non-renewal notices to at least 44 school teachers. Teachers rallied at the state Capitol.
The House and Senate have different views on education issues, including funding. The Senate passed a measure that would have extended the deadline for school districts to notify teachers of contract non-renewals. The House passed a so-called full-funding bill for education. Each of those measures sat on the opposite chamber's calendars without action.
So, it's another battle of political wills. But, ultimately, lawmakers will have to come together and K-12 will receive all of the funding that is available for the next fiscal year.
In our view, all that time spent posturing, lobbying, rallying, pressuring and cajoling was and is unnecessary. All that's really needed is a little patience so that legislators can finish their job.