Generally, a Mississippi governor’s budget proposal only gets attention when he presents it — several weeks before a legislative session starts. Lawmakers typically chart their own course in deciding how much money to spend.
Given that, it will be interesting to see whether anything in the proposal Gov. Tate Reeves released last week gets any attention from the legislative branch.
Reeves’ biggest idea was to phase out the state income tax by 2030. It sounds great until you start wondering how the state will replace the $1.9 billion in revenue generated by the income tax — a full 30 percent of Mississippi’s annual budget.
Some of the governor’s smaller ideas, specifically involving education, are newsworthy, too. Of four mentioned last week on the MississippiToday.orgwebsite, three sound like good ones.
Reeves recommended $3 million for math coaches across the state; $2 million to train teachers in computer science and coding; and full funding for a program, that gives bonuses to teachers in schools that improve by a letter grade.
A greater investment in math coaches, tutors, or whatever name the state chooses, would be an excellent use of taxpayer money. If each tutor worked full time and earned $50,000 a year in salary and benefits, it would provide only 60 such positions. That would be enough to see whether these people were able to improve academic results.
The same idea applies to spending money to train teachers in computer science. If anything has become clear in the last decade, it’s that most of today’s decent jobs require a modest degree of comfort with technology.
As for fully funding the School Recognition Program, which gives bonuses to teachers who work at schools that improve their state grade, it’s a fine idea that the Legislature should consider expanding.
Reeves’ one idea that sounds more politically motivated than anything else is to create a $3 million Patriotic Education Fund. This, he said, would be used to pay for instruction to fight what the governor said is “indoctrination in far-left socialist teachings” that focus on the country’s shortcomings and ignore the many great achievements of the United States.
Reeves’ spokeswoman added that the money, if approved, could be used for field trips, after-school clubs or the development of new lesson plans.
At a minimum, this proposal needs a lot more detail. Reeves appears to be comparing public education employees in Mississippi with the decided left-wing tilt of most university professors around the country. It’s just hard to see your average eighth-grade history teacher trying to indoctrinate students with anything other than doing well on their state tests.
Besides, as the Mississippi Department of Education told Mississippi Today, the State Board of Education adopted social studies learning goals in 2018, using the recommendations of Mississippi teachers. It’s impossible to think that the state board, whose members have good political sense, got hoodwinked.