Special to The Mississippi Link
JACKSON, Miss. — Noting that the bill contains a series of “firsts” for Mississippi, Governor Haley Barbour today signed legislation providing $2.5 billion in state funding for K-12 education in Fiscal Year 2009.
Flanked by young students, educators, administrators and lawmakers in the Library of Rouse Elementary School in Brandon, Governor Barbour said House Bill 513 is the realization of many of his goals going into the 2008 legislative session, including fully funding the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.
“I congratulate Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant, Speaker Billy McCoy and members of the House and Senate for working together so successfully to fund K-12 priorities during a tight budget year,” Governor Barbour said. “All six initiatives I proposed in my State of the State address passed this Legislative session, and for that I thank the Legislature and every Mississippian who sees education as our top priority.”
In addition to fully funding MAEP, HB 513 gives $8 million for State Superintendent Hank Bounds’ proposal to redesign high school, and $5 million for vocational equipment, both activities geared toward making high school more rigorous and relevant, especially for students not on a path to college.
Other features of HB 513 include the following:
• For the first time, teachers who have taught between 25 and 35 years will receive financial incentives to remain on the job; there are currently no incentives for teachers who have taught longer than 25 years. HB 513 provides more than $9.1 million for salary increment increases.
• A new dyslexia screening program will be funded at $1.5 million.
“This simple screening process, costs little to taxpayers, yet can help us identify and properly treat those who are saddled with the obstacle of dyslexia,” Governor Barbour said.
• $3.4 million has been allocated for a new mentoring program for beginning teachers. Nearly one third of new teachers leave the education profession after three years and this initiative will give the much needed support new faculty members need from more experienced teachers.
The Governor’s early childhood initiative was also funded for $3 million during the legislative session, and can be found in the Department of Human Services appropriations bill, House Bill 1619.
“I am proud that this is the first time state funding has been provided for early childhood education.” Governor Barbour added. “To have our children ready to learn by age five, we need to better utilize the existing early childhood programs that already serve 80 percent of our four-year-olds. The earlier we engage our children in learning, the better off they will be in the long-term.”
Fiscal Year 2009 begins on July 1, 2008.