A coast lawmaker says if cutbacks in K-12 education end up costing teachers their jobs it won't be the legislature's fault. Many school superintendents are predicting layoffs if the budget plan currently backed by a vast number of Senate members is adopted. In fact, school districts have less than two weeks to let thousands of teachers know if their contracts will be renewed.
Who will and who won't be at the head of the class next school year is still up in the air. Many Mississippi school superintendents claim they're uncomfortable renewing teacher contracts until the legislature agrees on a budget.
"April 15th is a deadline date that the superintendents and the school board have to deal with, and we knew that. Quite frankly its inexcusable for us to be sitting here on the first of April without an education budget and I hope the Senate will join the house in agreeing with us and pass that on to the Governor." said Rep. Randy Pierce of Leaksville who chairs the House education committee.
State senators insist they're committed to K-12 education but say the House plan in unrealistic and would likely lead to a tax increase.
"The Senate is trying to do it with real dollars and that's why we're staying within the legislative budget recommendation," said Sen. Billy Hewes, III of Gulfport. If we find more money we're gonna try to put more into education and do right by all our districts, but it's fooling people that we're going to do it to the degree that the House is talking about right now because the money is just not there."
Senator Hewes says if not fully funding education takes Mississippi teachers out of the classrooms and into the unemployment lines then superintendents, not lawmakers would be the ones responsible.
"When the moneys come down to the districts the superintendents make the decision as far as where the cuts are gonna be made and where the raises are gonna be done so it's really in their hands and I think the last place they ought to do it is in the classroom but really it's up to them when it comes down to that point." Senator Hewes said.
As the deadline to renew teacher contracts gets closer House members say whatever the Senate decides to do they hope they do it soon.
Gulfport Senator Billy Hewes says school districts should be accustomed to last minute funding decisions since every four years the legislative session runs a month longer. The current session ends the first week in May.