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Reeves threatens veto of $2.2 billion education funding bill



Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves

Gov. Tate Reeves has threatened to veto legislation setting the funding for Mississippi’s schools for fiscal year 2021.

House Bill 1700 allocates more than $2.2 billion for education, most of which goes to fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. MAEP was designed to level school funding to provide an adequate education to all the state’s children regardless of their ZIP code.

“The education bill has a major problem,” Reeves wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday. “The legislature cut a teacher pay program by over $26 million—a massive cut. It’s the program that rewards teachers in schools that are rated A, B, or improve a letter grade. It is our only performance reward program in the state. And it works.”

“Bottom line – over 20,000 teachers will get less pay than they earned if we allow this budget to become law,” he added. “Many of them will see pay cuts of a couple thousand dollars.”

The post had at least one organization saying the governor being less than honest.

“Tate is spinning this some kind of way to make it look like he’s fighting for teachers. The facts are that this is NOT a pay cut,” wrote Pay Raise for Mississippi Teachers on its Facebook page. “They took the performance bonuses that not everyone got anyway and rolled that money into MAEP. This move was done by the legislature to keep education funding as close to the expected levels as they could so districts would, hopefully, not have to make layoffs. As it is the education funding is about as good as we can hope for under these difficult circumstances. If he manages a veto and it has to be redone, we might find ourselves worse off.”

State Sen. Brice Wiggins (R-Pascagoula) also responded on Facebook, saying incentive funds for teachers, known as the School Recognition Program, have been shifted, not repealed.

“Because of COVID, all agencies took an across the board cut of around 5%. Funding the state budget was a challenge this year and not where anyone wanted it to be. In other words, everyone took a hit,” Wiggins wrote. “I voted for the (school recognition) program when it was introduced and I think it has worked to put money in the classroom. But let’s be honest, there were complaints, mainly from the ‘education establishment’ and teachers themselves, until the kinks got worked out; some still don’t like it but have accepted it.”

The senator indicated vetoing the bill would leave schools without funding just as they’re getting ready for the coming academic year and added that the legislature could better address the issue in January 2021 when “revenues will likely have improved.”

A veto now, he wrote, “is throwing the baby out with the bath water.”

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