TUESDAY, NOV. 14, 2006

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Dowdy: Fully fund MAEP

JACKSON (Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2006) – Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Dowdy said today that Republican Gov. Haley Barbour’s proposed state budget would insufficiently fund K-12 public education.

Barbour proposed giving the Mississippi Adequate Education Program $65 million in new money during the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2007, $93 million less than the $158 million in new money it needs to be fully funded. Dowdy said that is unacceptable.

“When will Gov. Barbour realize that the MAEP must be fully funded if we are going to ensure our children – Mississippi’s future generations – receive the best possible education?” Dowdy said.

Lawmakers created the MAEP in 1993, implemented the formula into the budget process in 1997 and fully funded it just once in 2003. Lawmakers voted earlier this year to fully fund the MAEP if sufficient funds are available; the money will be available next year.

“The program is called the Mississippi Adequate Education Program,” Dowdy said. “It is designed to provide children an education on par with a Level 3, or midlevel, accreditation. We must fully fund education. Democrats believe education is the No. 1 priority.”

Dowdy also criticized Barbour for saying that public school teachers would have to forgo a pay raise if the Legislature fully funds MAEP. Barbour included money in his proposed budget to fund a 3 percent teacher pay raise.

But with lawmakers entering the 2007 legislative session with a $190 million projected surplus for the current fiscal year and an additional $250 million in extra money to spend for the next fiscal year, Dowdy said, they can fund both the MAEP and a teacher pay raise.

“You can’t hold teacher pay hostage to the MAEP like Barbour is trying to do,” Dowdy said. “You have to address all of education’s needs.”

House Speaker Billy McCoy of Rienzi said state House Democrats believe they can fully fund the MAEP and address funding needs for community and junior colleges as well as state universities and stay within the projected revenues.

“To do otherwise would mean continued tax increases by school districts at the local level and continued tuition increases for community college and university students,” McCoy said.

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