According to the Parents’ Campaign, a non-profit organization made up of teachers and parents to ensure the quality of Mississippi’s public education, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) was underfunded by the Mississippi Legislature by $257 million for the 2014-2015 school year, far below what is mandated by state law.
Winona is underfunded by $689,516, and since 2008, the Winona schools have been cut $4,094,980 due to the underfunding of MAEP by the state.
Currently, the Winona Separate School District is operating on a $7,653,574 budget for FY 2014. The district is proposing a budget equaling $7,630,076 for FY2015, $24,498 less than the year before. The proposed budget includes local ad valincrease of $16,882 over last year.
Dr. Teresa Jackson, Winona’s Superintendent of Education, said in preparing the district’s FY2015 budget, expense cuts were required to make up for being underfunded once again.
“We have two teacher units [both retiring] that we will not replace,” Jackson said. “Both of those will be at the elementary school.”
Jackson said the district will have to tap into reserve funds to help with unfunded mandates by the Mississippi Department of Education.
“Teacher pay raises, which our teachers absolutely deserve – we are having to pull from funds that are already insufficient,” Jackson said. “We are constantly looking at expenses and asking, ‘Is there a better way?’ or ‘Can we spend less?’
In addition to being underfunded by state cuts, Jackson said the district will receive $100,000 less due to average daily attendance numbers.
“Students have to be in school 63 percent of the time to count for our average daily attendance,” Jackson said. “So when a student checks out of school for a doctor’s appointment, orthodontist’s appointment, or to go somewhere with their family, they may or may not be counted as present that day. Excused or unexcused, [being absent] does not help the district.”
Jackson went on to explain that although the district must provide all tools needed to educate a certain number of students based on enrollment, due to the average daily attendance, they may not get funding for all of those students.
“At $5,000 a student, say we didn’t get funded for 10 of those students,” Jackson said. “That is $50,000. We still have to have enough textbooks, buses, desks, and teachers to educate those students.”
Jackson went on to say the district is working to keep students in school, but she said the district cannot make children come to school.
“It isn’t just about funding,” Jackson said. “We can’t educate students if they do not come to school.”
Jackson, formerly a principal in the Grenada School District, said while in Grenada, a much larger district with a much larger budget, she “did not want” for supplies and other teaching tools due.
“[Grenada] was [ranked a ‘B’ performing] district,” she said. “Winona is a ‘B’ [performing] school district with far less funding. If we can be a ‘B’ school with less resources, imagine what we can do if we got that $600,000.”
The Winona School District will hold a budget hearing for the public regarding the proposed FY2015 budget on Tuesday, June 17, 2014, at the District office located at 218 Fairground Street in Winona.