Republicans are destroying education system

Published 12:00 pm Friday, May 13, 2016

By TJ Ray

The Oxford EAGLE reported Wednesday that the Oxford School District is having to do some scrounging to make up for the failure of the folks in Jackson to do their job.

The superintendent sounds hopeful that the problem can be dealt with, but my bet is there are many school administrators pulling their hair and gnashing their teeth at what’s been happening. Sadly, schools are just one of the endeavors in Mississippi getting caught in the numbers juggling.

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Just the other day I was reminded of that old adage about there being lies, damn lies and statistics. Recent days have underscored the idea that statistics are the damndest of lies. Not surprisingly, the authors of the bogus stats are blanketing the state’s media with the hogwash.

Decades ago the legislature enacted a law that should have provided adequate funding for public schools. Only twice has the funding for schools equaled the Mississippi Adequate Education request. Newspapers these days around Mississippi give much space to quotes from legislators home from the latest session, trying to head off criticism of their treatment of public education by asserting that they funded it. In fact, the dollars set aside for public schools was only $176 million less than the MAEP would prescribe. This underfunding matches their short-changing schools last year by the same amount.

Sadly, there is one other wrinkle to the mess. Years ago a specific statute was enacted, not a part of MAEP. It was specifically passed into law years ago when sales tax in the state was raised from 6 to 7 percent. That additional 1 percent was strictly for education. And, of that 1 percent increase, 9 percent of it was specifically dedicated for Classroom Supply Fund. This past year that 9 percent of 1 cent brought in $37 million to the state treasury for the classroom supply fund. However, that all went into the general fund, and the legislature only allocated $12 million to the classroom supply fund. [My personal suspicion is that drying up classroom supply dollars will in time make public schools so poorly housed that it will be much easier to lure children into charter for-profit schools.]

And yet, these people are telling the public their crooked spiel as if folks are too stupid to know better. Well, maybe they are. After all, they sent these folks to Jackson.

Let’s not forget that the Mississippi Constitution has a law prohibiting the spending of education dollars on anything but public schools. You might ask, as I have, how the dollars being diverted in multiple schemes to charter schools can be legal. The answer

I was given by several folks in Jackson is that the legislature simply wrote a bill that calls charter schools “public schools.” One must conclude that we have the most inept attorney general possible or that the courts have blessed this con.

Well, there you have it. The Republicans in Mississippi are destroying or weakening many good programs in order to give tax breaks and other incentives to their corporate sponsors. At the same time the Republicans in Washington are pretty much closing the deal on the election of Hillary Clinton to be our next president.

Forgive the use of numbers in this. Comes very close to using statistics. I’m not smart enough to do that — ever since I flunked trigonometry at that little school in Starkville.

TJ Ray, a retired professor of English at Ole Miss, can be reached at