Today, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) announced that he’s slashing $171.9 million from the state’s $6 billion budget, with most of the cuts affecting education programs. According to the AP, Barbour tried to soften his announcement by pointing out that “even with budget cuts, all levels of education are receiving more money than they ever have.” The reason for this good news? The federal stimulus:
Barbour said he expects the impact to be “very, very minimal,” because K-12 and higher education programs are receiving millions of dollars in federal stimulus funds.
Salary supplements for national-board certified teachers and financial aid programs for students are among the items exempted from the cuts. Medicaid and the Department of Corrections will also not be cut at this time.
Under the stimulus, Mississippi schools received $250 million and the state received $484 million to prevent cuts, such as teacher layoffs, in education.
Mississippi shows why stimulus funds were so important for the states — and the folly of other governors such as Sarah Palin, who initially rejected federal education funds. Palin turned down $160 million for education because she believed the state should “chart our own course.” Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) also wanted to use $700 million of South Carolina’s stimulus money meant for school funding and public safety to pay down the state debt, even though the move could have cost 7,500 teachers their jobs.
Barbour was also an outspoken opponent of the stimulus, although his main objections were over $50 million in unemployment benefits for part-time workers. (The state legislature eventually passed a bill circumventing Barbour.)