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News & Press: Legislative News

Legislative Update (7/9/20): Governor Partially Vetoes K-12 Funding Bill

Thursday, July 9, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kelly Riley
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As shared last Thursday, HB 1700 (the K-12 FY 21 funding bill) diverted funding for the School Recognition Program (SRP) to the MAEP.  As districts will retain the accountability grade for the 2020-21 school year that they received in the 2019-20 school year due to the cancellation of state testing last spring, legislators diverted these funds without recognizing the impact on SRP bonuses.  Educators throughout the state began expressing their concern at the loss of the bonuses.  After realizing that FY 21 funding in HB 1700 provides bonuses for 2018-2019 student performance, legislative leaders notified Governor Reeves that it would not be necessary for him to veto HB 1700, as legislative leaders would correct the situation via a deficit appropriation.

 

Governor Reeves created the School Recognition Program when he was Lt. Governor.  He used social media and his daily press conferences to criticize legislators for their actions.  Rather than accurately referring to the bonuses earned by teachers, he referred to teacher salaries and teacher pay being cut.  Governor Reeves suggested that legislative leaders slid the diversion of these funds past most legislators without much conversation.  This is not true, as Senate Appropriations Chairman Briggs Hopson told his fellow senators on the Senate floor when he was presenting HB 1700 that the funds were being diverted as a means of avoiding significant cuts to the education budget. Many educators shared on social media this week that they found the governor’s sudden interest in teacher salaries very interesting given his lack of support for previous teacher pay raise proposals in the midst of his consistent support for charter schools and vouchers, including sneaking $2 million into a non-education bill for the expansion of vouchers in the closing hours of the 2019 Legislative Session.

 

Rather than allow legislators to correct the situation via a deficit appropriation, Governor Reeves chose to veto most parts of HB 1700 late Wednesday evening.  He vetoed funding for most programs, including:

 

  • Chickasaw Cession
  • MAEP
  • Special Education
  • Mississippi Schools for the Deaf and the Blind
  • School Attendance Officers
  • School Nurse Program
  • EEF funding for the literacy initiative, classroom supplies, the Mississippi School for Math and Science, and the Mississippi School of the Arts
  • Flow through funding for a multitude of programs, including the Dubard School, the Dyslexia Program, Magnolia Speech School, Teach for America, USM’s Autism Program, and USM’s Children’s Center for Communication and Development
  • Educable Child Program, including specific language as to the legislature’s intent that Educable Child funds be exempt from budgets cuts by the legislature and/or the Office of the Governor

 

Governor Reeves did not veto funding for MDE operations, Vocational Education, early learning collaboratives, or National Board Certification.  He also did not veto funding for vouchers or the MCOPS program, both of which he created and championed when he served as Lt. Governor.

 

While next steps are somewhat uncertain at this point given that numerous legislators have tested positive for COVID-19 and the capitol is closed, districts are now faced with preparing for the upcoming school year during an unprecedented pandemic without a state budget.  Several districts have not issued non-renewals, while others have not issued contracts.  MDE cannot distribute MAEP and other allocations to districts without an appropriation.

 

Legislators had no intent of depriving teachers of the earned bonuses and they attempted to rectify the issue as soon as they were aware of the lag time between results and funding.  Rather than working with legislators to resolve the issue, Governor Reeves chose to partially veto HB 1700 and leave districts hanging.  With all the uncertainty already on districts and the fragile environments that exist for just what the future looks like, educators need as many certainties as they can get at this point rather than more unknowns. 

 

FY 21 Funding for Community Colleges and Universities:  Community colleges were cut 6% for FY 21, while funding for the Community College Board was cut 6.1%.  Universities saw a 2.6% cut to operational funds.  Student Financial Aid was cut by less than 1%. 

 

Click here for our bill tracking spreadsheet which reflects that the three distance learning bills we highlighted in last Thursday’s update all became law without the Governor’s signature, as he chose not to sign them, but did not want to veto them.  These bills are funded with CARES Act funds.  The legislature maintained appropriation authority for these funds in a dispute with Governor Reeves in early May.