The cost of education in Mississippi

The federal government provides $800 Million of Mississippi’s $3.3 Billion education budget.  The Daily Journal asserts that “Cutting federal school funding [is] not realistic” and then challenges the reader to “Imagine what the impact would be if 25 percent of the money coming into Mississippi’s public schools suddenly disappeared.”

Challenge accepted.

With 492,586 students enrolled in public schools according to the Mississippi Department of Education, the state spends an average of $6,699 per student per year.  For comparison, annual tuition rates for some Gulf Coast private schools were sampled, albeit not scientifically.  The amounts below include tuition, registration, and other mandatory fees that could be identified on the respective institutions’ public websites:

As it turns out, private school cost is less than public school funding.  Are the buses, school lunches, superintendents, school boards, a Board of Education and State Superintendent, and annual fights over teacher pay and MAEP adding value commensurate with cost?  Probably not.  Even though private school teachers are typically paid less than their public school counterparts, private school parents still find “value” in sending their children to them.  Quality education is not so closely linked to teacher pay as the NEA, AFT, Mississippi Legislature, and others would have us believe.  But I digress.

Back to the original challenge:  What would be the impact to Mississippi schools without the federal subsidy?  Answer:  Mississippi would still have enough funding to send each student to a private school.  Less the $800 Million, the amount per student ($5,075 per year) is almost enough to send a student to any private school on the list and more than enough with multi-child or “participating member” discounts offered by every private school.  Yet The Parents’ Campaign and Better Schools, Better Jobs demand more funding to meet the levels prescribed under MAEP as if funding is one of the most critical items for improving  the quality of education.

Mississippi can do better and increased funding is not a panacea.  Washington, DC spends nearly $30,000 per student and is ranked only 0.5% ahead of Mississippi in Education Weeks’ Education Counts report!  In fact, the Cato Institute found that “this spending figure is about triple what the DC voucher program spends per pupil—and the voucher students have a much higher graduation rate and perform as well or better academically.”

Imagine this:  Parents send their children to private schools effectively sacrificing their “entitlement” to $6,699 per student while spending another +/-$5,000 per student to do so.  By “voting with their dollars,” these parents demonstrate the increased value of the private schools they send their children to.  An education voucher system would allow all Mississippians to have that same opportunity, rich or poor.  A means adjusted voucher system could even save the state money while still providing better education value to the most needy students.

While the state can’t be weaned off federal funding overnight, getting the politics, bureaucracy, and overhead of the federal government out of education would be helpful to Mississippi and our country.  Returning education to local control, local oversight, local responsibility and exposing it to competition would be even better.

Being a net taker of federal “welfare” has yet to help Mississippi.  An education system that adds value will.

Imagine that.

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Gay rights supporters gain ground in Mississippi

NewsMS reported a fourth Mississippi city has passed a resolution recognizing people identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender in Another LGBT Resolution Passes, Add Magnolia to the List.  In a 3-2 vote, the Magnolia Board of Aldermen passed the resolution affirming the “dignity and worth of all city residents – including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)”. 

On the heels of Magnolia’s resolution,  [Human Rights Campaign is] planning $8.5 million LGBT campaign in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas.  The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the self-proclaimed largest civil rights advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality, will be opening offices in Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas and staffing them with around 20 people each. 

HRC asserts that people who know and care for gay people are more likely to support expanded LGBT rights.  With “Project One America,” HRC hopes to convince those concealing their sexual orientation to become public and accelerate the acceptance and adoption of gay rights in Mississippi and across the South.

WCBI Interviews Sen. Cochran

Last week, WCBI interviewed Sen. Thad Cochran about the 2014 Primary Election and his primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel. Cochran stated that McDaniel does not have experience and is not surprised that the Tea Party is backing his opponent.

See the video at Y’all Politics.

WXXV25 | Gulfport City Council Approves Indoor Shooting Range

WXXV reports that the Gulfport City Council Approves Indoor Shooting Range.  The necessary zoning changes were approved that will accommodate construction of the facility on Seaway Road near The Dock restaurant.  David Comstock proposed the project, expects to invest $4-5 Million, and open the range in about 9 months.

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Education vouchers wildly successful in Louisiana

In the wake of the Mississippi House’s rejection of education vouchers for 500 special needs students, Louisiana reports 91.9% of parents are happy with the Louisiana Scholarship Program.  The program provides funds for parents to choose a school of their choice if they have incomes below 250% of the federal poverty limit and are enrolled in a public school with a C, D, or F grade.  Of those parents, 91.6% said they are happy with academic progress.

Louisiana’s program now supports 6,490 families.  Despite documented academic successes which led Louisiana’s legislature to roll-out the program statewide, the program had to survive a Justice Department lawsuit last year that alleged the program “impede[d] desegregation.”  Keep in mind, all the students benefitting from the vouchers are poor and most are minorities!

Just as Louisiana had to fight unions and the federal government to get and then keep the voucher program in place, Mississippi will have to fight those that benefit from the status quo.  Where does your state Senator or state Representative stand?  Below is how Gulf Coast Representatives voted on vouchers for special needs students:

  • Jeramey D. Anderson (110)–Nay
  • David Baria (122)–Nay
  • Sonya Williams-Barnes (119)–Nay
  • Manly Barton (109)–Yea
  • Richard Bennett (120)–Yea
  • Charles Busby (111)–Yea
  • Carolyn Crawford (121)–Yea
  • Scott DeLano (117)–Yea
  • Casey Eure (116)–Yea
  • Jeffrey S. Guice, Harrison & Jackson Counties (114)–Yea
  • Greg Haney (118)–Nay
  • Timmy Ladner, Hancock & Harrison Counties (93)–Yea
  • Doug McLeod (107)–Yea
  • Randall H. Patterson (115)–Nay
  • John O. Read (112)–Yea
  • Patricia Willis, Hancock & Harrison Counties (95)–Yea
  • H.B. “Hank” Zuber, III (113)–Yea

Even if they voted with your desires in the 2014 session, be sure to let them know what you think.  Nothing keeps them from changing their vote in the future except accountability to constituents.

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WDAM Interviews Gene Taylor

Gene Taylor was interviewed by Tuesday morning on WDAM’s News 7 Sunrise program.  During the 5-1/2 minute interview Taylor accused incumbent Rep. Steven Palazzo of supporting a cut in Defense spending and unlimited increases in flood insurance rates.  Taylor took credit for getting mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles to the troops, and over $21 Billion for post-Katrina relief.  Saying the cuts in Defense will directly hurt Camp Shelby, Keesler AFB, the Gulfport Seabee Base, and Huntington-Ingalls Shipyard, the cuts will ultimately hurt our nation’s security.

Taylor thinks that Palazzo’s public outreach has been weak and vows to do a better job.  If voted back into office, he’ll restart townhall meetings, work with local industries, restore confidence in government, and read the bills (inferring that Rep. Palazzo does or did not).

“I’ve always been pro-life, I’ve always been pro-gun, I’ve always been for a balanced budget, I’ve always been for a strong national defense; that’s not going to change.  I’ve always put what is best for Mississippi ahead of either political party.”

For the entire interview, click WDAM News 7 Sunrise.

 

Stands on education separate Cochran & McDaniel

If you think the two Republican candidates in the race for the U.S. Senate are similar, look no further than education for a difference.  As reported by Emily Wagster Pettus in the Clarion-Ledger, their viewpoints certainly diverge with respect to the role of the federal government in education.

Sen. Thad Cochran is dedicated to ensuring federal funding is available in Mississippi for education and even voted establish the U.S. Department of Education as a cabinet level agency in 1979.  Chris McDaniel asserts that the federal government should have no role in education since it is not identified as a role in the U.S. Constitution and that education is a responsibility best left to the states.

Federal spending, whether on education or other federal programs, clearly marks the divide between establishment and Tea Party Republicans.  The Tea Party promotes limited government, reducing the federal debt, lower taxes, and making hard decisions on cuts while accusing establishment Republicans for not being willing to cut anything.

NOTE:  Most often what is heralded in the news as a “budget cut” is not a real cut (i.e. a reduction in actual dollars) but a reduction in the rate of growth.

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NOTE: Post updated on April 24th, 2014.