I see where Governor Phil Bryant will sign the state Senate’s education funding bill although it short changes K-12 education by another $211 million dollars. I could rant and rave about how little the Governor and the state legislators value education, but these men and women have children and grandchildren of their own, so it’s hard to believe they do not value education to some extent. More likely the truth is that Mississippi is a poor state that truly cannot financially afford to do what is right educationally for its children. However, the problem with that truth is that it makes the Governor’s and legislators’ aversion to the Federal dollars that have financially propped up Mississippi for years, and their support for doing away with state income taxes that account for 31% of the state’s total revenues even more bewildering. This is a troubling paradox which stands to be corrected only through the ballot box, but Mississippi has long been enamored with its paradoxes, so sanity is not likely to occur through the vote.
If we accept the truth that Mississippi is a poor state that truly cannot afford to fully fund education, then we must also accept the truth that cutting a third of the state’s revenues is not a practical solution to providing for our children’s education or any of the other countless services needed in the state. Anyone who does not accept that truth either has a private bankroll capable of providing for all their children’s needs, including education, or they know of some secret stash the state has hidden away in a Richton salt dome. But, this is not just an education issue; it is an issue that permeates all agencies and divisions of the state. It is an issue that cannot be resolved by throwing away your wallet and praying for heavenly intervention although when it comes to funding education in Mississippi, educators have been praying for heavenly intervention for years.
Many state legislators call for improvement in education before they “hand out” more money. I agree there are improvements that can be made in education, but withholding funding to make that point is grossly negligent on the part of our legislators. Withholding funds until improvement is realized as so many legislators advocate does not resolve the problem, but rather exacerbates the problem. Also, although it is highly laughable, too many of our leaders in Jackson believe Mississippi teachers are getting rich off the state. As a result, our children are growing educationally poorer due to distrust and declining legislative financial support. However, the biggest problem with our leadership in Jackson is they fail to understand the education funding issue in Mississippi is not about teachers; it is about children.
When it comes to making a living for their families, teachers in Mississippi are in the same boat as the majority of the people in the state; they struggle. Most families in Mississippi, including teacher families, do not have a bankroll capable of providing private education for their children, nor do they have a key to the mystical stash in Richton; they depend on a free public education for their children’s future. Therefore, instead of conjuring up ways to throw away a third of the state’s revenue, we need legislators who think outside the proverbial box to find ways to better address state funding not only for education but for all areas that depend on state funding. To do that, our leadership needs to look for ways to consolidate spending as well as avenues for creating new revenue dollars rather than proposing schemes that will further cripple the state. Therefore, in line with the current trend of enigmatic thinking engulfing our state and country, I want to share some practical funding suggestions and benefits of thinking creatively and not foolishly.
Practical Suggestions for Funding Mississippi Education
Practical Suggestion #1: Consolidate elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools at the county level.
Benefit: Under this plan, the state would save money by having only one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school in each county. By slashing the number of schools in the state by 75%, the savings in administrative and instructional personnel as well as support staff alone would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. So what if it means mega schools of three to four thousand kids, the savings to the state would make it more than worthwhile.
Practical Suggestion #2: Consolidate or reduce the number of state senators and state representatives to Jackson.
Benefit: Under this plan, the state could have one senator from each county, which would increase the Mississippi Senate from 52 members to 82 members. Second, three representatives to the state house would be elected from each of five state congressional districts such as the Coastal District, Central District, Capital District, Delta District, and Hills District. In each district, one Republican, one Democrat, and one at large representative to the State House of Representatives would be elected. This would reduce the number of state representatives from 122 to 15. This plan would reduce the overall number of state legislators from 174 to 97, which would save the taxpayers around $2,000,000 annually if not more.
Practical Suggestion #3: Conduct a study to look for redundancy in the 138 state agencies and departments. Reduce the number of state agencies and departments as indicated by the study through consolidation.
Benefit: Considerable savings could be made by consolidating some of the 138 state agencies. Savings would come by eliminating redundant directorships, support staff and clerical staff.
Practical Suggestion #4: Direct MDOT to be more conservative and repair state roads and highways with pea gravel instead of expensive paving. Also, to save money on bridge repairs, MDOT should think outside the box, and build ramps on both sides of deteriorating bridges.
Benefit: Money saved by MDOT to repair roads and bridges would actually be redirected back to the working sector. For example, mechanics would benefit greatly from automobiles constantly in contact with pea gravel potholes and ramping over creeks, rivers and overpasses where bridges once stood. I can also see a sudden spike in business for body shops as people across the state opt to have their cars painted orange like Bo and Luke’s car on the Dukes of Hazard! In addition, gas stations would benefit from the need for higher priced high octane fuel, car dealers would benefit from selling more souped up automobiles, insurance companies would benefit by charging higher rates, and the demand for emergency response and medical personnel would skyrocket.
Practical Suggestion #5: Require all adults in the state to exercise their second amendment rights and carry a firearm. This would effectively reduce the number of sheriffs, deputies, highway patrol officers, police officers and other law enforcement personnel needed in the state.
Benefit: Money would be saved by moving to a vigilante style of citizen law enforcement. What law enforcement personnel left could spend their time helping coroners identify bodies.
Practical Suggestion #6: Completely restructure K-12 education by placing one certified teacher in each school as the lead teacher, and since anybody can teach, hire substitute teachers off the street to teach classes. For administrative positions such as principals and assistant principals, conduct a monthly community lottery to draw names for a lucky citizen to serve in those positions for a month, or better yet, draw the lottery names from a hat containing the names of state legislators. For clerical positions, it would be the civic duty of all citizens to sign up to serve in their local school for one week each year.
Benefit: This plan would allow the state to funnel the majority of public school dollars to private schools and charters and populate those schools with elite upper class, white middle class, and minorities with unique athletic skills while reserving public schools for poor whites and non-athletic minorities. This would save the state hundreds of millions of dollars.
Practical Suggestion #7: Charge parents for any absentees their child accrues beyond 10 days unless the child is hospitalized or is bedridden for more than three days under a doctor’s care.
Benefit: Charging parents for excessive absenteeism makes sense. The money paid by parents would go to help offset the expense of providing tutoring services, loss of state funding to schools and summer schools.
Just think how much money Mississippi would save if such a plan was adopted! This plan would allow the state to save so much money that Mississippi could afford to secede once again from the distrustful United States of America. By doing so, Mississippi would no longer be enticed to accept those evil nasty Federal dollars the government keeps trying to shove down our poor throats to offset the expenses of such things as education and health care. With this plan there would be so much extra revenue pouring into the state coffers, Mississippi could afford to entice companies to build in Mississippi with one-hundred year state tax exemptions; the state would even have enough money to pay the cost of moving the companies’ management and workers to Mississippi. Finally, we could elect our own president, Bubba, field boss, or master or whatever the state legislature decides is best for us. There would be no state taxes! The only requirement would be to raise cotton in your backyard, and happily sing, “We Have Overcome” in tribute to the personal and political agendas and opinions of those who know best in Jackson.
©Jack Linton, March 24, 2015