Save the Children began working with Mississippi Communities in 1933. They have implemented evidence-based education and health programs in Mississippi since 2003. Last Monday, Senator Willie Simmons and I got a chance to sit inside one of the classrooms to see this educational tool up close and personal. The kids obviously enjoyed the teaching style inside the class. I even got a chance to read a book to the class. In this photo, Senator Willie Simmons and I are sitting inside the classroom listening to innovative instructional time.
Bolivar County has two courthouses. One is in Rosedale and the other is in Cleveland. On Saturday, it was covered with snow and ice. It is a rare site in the Mississippi Delta.
Biloxi Alderman Felix Gines, Representative Jeramey Anderson, and I shared a moment at the Gulf Coast Legislative Reception. As I am proud of the Mississippi Delta, they are equally boastful of their Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Representative Bob Evans had a big smile on his face outside the Capitol. He told me he was headed to a girl's basketball game between Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi.
Representative Missy McGee was elected in a special election in October 2017. Each interaction with her has been pleasant and I look forward to working with her. I think we need more women in both the House and Senate chamber. They often bring a fresh perspective to complex issues.
Representative Carl Mickens stopped by our row to speak to newly elected Representative Cheikh Taylor. Though we went home for the week on Thursday, we stuck around to chat for a few minutes.
"We have a Transportation crisis in Mississippi," said Representative Tommy Reynolds. This was before his amendment to House Bill 722 passed. House Democrats are pushing for a comprehensive road funding plan.
Child vaccinations are a complex topic that I have appreciated better acquainting myself. These ladies (Lindey Magee co-director MPVR, Jennifer Jarrell, and Melisha Dooley) have worked tirelessly to help bring awareness to the detriments of child vaccines. Representative John Faulkner and I took a photo with them after they spoke at a Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus luncheon. If you'd like to learn more about their organization, please visit mpvr.org; Also, please go to mpvr.org/join if you'd like to become a member of their page.
Week 2 Mississippi Legislative Session (2018)
Because it is early in the session, most legislative work is currently happening in committees where bills must be approved before they are introduced to the House as a whole. The deadline for bills to be filed is Monday, January 15th, 2018 so many committees are waiting until all bills are filed to hold meetings.
This session, I am optimistic and hopeful the legislature can do three things:
*Invest in transportation
*Improve various facets of K-12 education
*Create additional sources of revenue
*Change the state flag
Fortunately, I got some hope this week as it relates to transportation. As we began education talks, I was disappointed on Friday when I was told House Bill 957 had been dropped. Lastly, the jury is still out on whether or not bills will come out of committee to implement a lottery or to change the state flag. To my fellow colleagues, we have a responsibility to our state to attempt to make it better. This is our time to push Mississippi forward.
Groups from across the state that visited the Capitol included members of the Mississippi Association of Educators, Mississippi Municipal League, the Mississippi Board of Nursing and a number of Mississippi's fire chiefs from different areas of the state.
Only one bill made it out of committee to be introduced to the House this week. In yet another effort to improve the state's infrastructure, House Bill 722 would ensure that 35 percent of the use tax collected by the Department of Revenue would be distributed for the repair, maintenance and reconstruction of roads, streets and bridges. The 35 percent would be split three ways, with 15 percent given to municipalities, 15 percent given to counties and five percent given to a grant program administered by the Mississippi Development Authority to assist the municipalities and counties with improvements.
Overall, this would mean that approximately $108 million would be dedicated solely to improving the state's infrastructure. The bill passed the House by a bipartisan vote of 118-0, and will now be sent to the Senate for consideration. I really hope this was not a bill to impress Mayor's who were attending a Mississippi Municipal League Conference, but a real attempt to improve infrastructure.
***Additionally, last week's infrastructure-related legislation, House Bill 354 and House Bill 357, were sent to the Senate.
Under the proposed new legislation in House Bill 957, two of the three districts I represent would lose funding and one would gain funding. West Bolivar School District and North Bolivar School Districts are two schools districts in House District 29. Under the new proposed funding formula, they will respectively lose $202,000 (Bolivar) and $900,000 (West Bolivar) after a 7 year phase in. The third district I represent is Cleveland School District who will gain $578,244 over the same period of time.
According to The Mississippi Parents Campaign website, the Mississippi Legislature passed the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) in 1997. It is a law that provides a formula designed to ensure an adequate education for every Mississippi child - whether that child lives in a "wealthy" community or a "poor" one. It is designed to provide schools the resources necessary for adequate student achievement. Before I was a legislator, the legislature voted to fund MAEP twice since that time and only one of those times did the funding actually get to the districts.
As reported by Mississippi Today, Rebecca Sibilia, CEO of EDBuild, described the formula as "inequitable, illogical" and "not good for kids." Her company was hired to research potential rewrite options and offer comprehensive recommendations. However, several of the most substantial suggestions were ignored. In my opinion, this would contribute to further hurting public education.
Furthermore, the two sharp declines in funding for these two rural districts under the new rewrite are unconscionable.
***First, there are several weights that get points in this new formula and "rurality" is one of those variables. Both West Bolivar School District and North Bolivar School District get zero points in the equation. How much more rural do you have to be than Beulah, Duncan, Rosedale, Alligator, Shelby, or Mound Bayou? This part of the equation should count for more than 10 percent of the equation.
***Two, the "Hold Harmless" component, which ensured certain protected districts received level funding is being removed. Under EdBuild's proposal more funding should go toward the state's low-income students and special needs learners. There are 6 districts that are defined as hold harmless districts. If this component is removed, it should be replaced to encourage success in these districts.
***Third, the new formula would provide slightly more than $100 million less dollars than MAEP. If we couldn't come up with the money to fund MAEP, I don't understand the rush in changing the formula. It's appears that this is a political move to shift the state's burden to fund the roughly 490,000 Mississippi kids who depend on us for public education.
This is very disturbing to see the House be so insensitive to the needs of some of our state's most vulnerable children. At present, I will vote against this bill and I am hoping other colleagues will do the same. Please take the time to send an email to your Mississippi Representatives to express your disagreement. You can email your Representatives via group email at the following address: Representatives@house.ms.gov. Each Representative will receive the email. Your voice matters!!!
I really want to work with my conservative counterparts. However, this bill does not represent the Mississippi I envision. In order to equitably move into our next 200 years, education is a must. I suggest our body reconsider this bill as it does nothing for poor, rural districts. A cut like this would be educationally and economically devastating to several districts that need more and not less funding.
Abe M. Hudson, Jr.