July 21, 2020 10:33:13 AM
Hob Bryan -
What does Gov. Tate Reeves have against deaf and blind children? Nothing, one assumes. So why did he veto the appropriation to operate the state schools for the deaf and blind?
For that matter, what does he have against school children in general? Nothing, one assumes. So why did he veto the $2 billion appropriation to fund every public school in Mississippi?
It's odd. Because Gov. Reeves was upset that the legislature didn't fund a salary supplement for certain teachers, he vetoed the funds which pay the base salaries for all teachers. The veto didn't get one red cent to the program he's concerned about, but it did cut off all state money for every school in the state.
We're three weeks into the fiscal year, districts have to pay teachers, and, you know, pay things like utility bills. There's no word from Gov. Reeves about when, if ever, they will get their state funds. He did, however, make certain that the bureaucrats at the state department of education would get paid. Make sense now? Of course not.
Here's what happened: The legislature failed to provide specific funds for $25 million in salary supplements that certain teachers had earned. I think the legislature made a mistake. It's fine for Gov. Reeves to point that out and to take the legislature to task. But after the issue was raised, legislative leaders agreed to fund the supplements as soon as they could get back in session, and Gov. Reeves was informed of that.
Instead of claiming victory -- as he was entitled to do -- Gov. Reeves inexplicitly vetoed all state funds for local school districts. Out of five specific programs, Gov. Reeves chose to veto three. He vetoed funds for the schools for the deaf and blind. He vetoed the Chickasaw Cession funds (a program for some school districts in North Mississippi who, unlike other districts, don't have revenue from sixteenth section lands). And he vetoed the entire Mississippi Adequate Education Program -- the $2 billion in state funds which is the state's basic funding program for public education.
However, he approved two other items: funds for the state department of education and funds for vocational programs at the state department. In other words, he kept money flowing to Jackson bureaucrats, but cut off all money for local districts.
The fiscal year began July 1. Schools are struggling to decide how to educate children. They must try to determine how many teachers will actually be able to teach; how many students will actually attend classes -- if they are offered; how to teach remotely; and what to do about students without internet access and without home computers.
Now, they don't even know whether they will receive state funds, and, if so, in what amount. Does the governor plan to end the Chickasaw Cession program? If not, why on earth did he choose to veto it?
Some say the governor plans to send some funds to some districts by executive order. Even if this is possible, so far (I'm writing this Saturday morning) there has been no direct word from the governor about his plans, and the legal basis for doing so is not certain. But this would only be an attempt to mitigate the damage the governor caused by his intemperate veto.
There's a remedy for this mess. As soon as the legislature can get back into session, we need to fund the $25 million program and we need to override this senseless veto. That would give some stability to the schools -- including the schools for the deaf and the blind.
Hob Bryan is a member of the Mississippi State Senate from Amory.