by Emily Wagster Pettus, Associated Press

Top Mississippi lawmakers on Friday were still trying to decide how much money the state will spend on public schools during this election year, even as education advocates continued to push for a substantial increase.

“Our students deserve clean, well-equipped, welcoming and energizing learning environments with access to the latest technology and innovative teaching methods,” Mississippi Association of Educators president Erica Jones said in a statement.

House and Senate budget writers face a Saturday deadline to file funding proposals for education, health care, prisons, transportation and other services during the fiscal year that begins July 1.

“I can assure you that we’re working hard,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Read, a Republican from Gautier, said Friday.

All members of the House and Senate will get to vote on budget proposals in the days after the negotiators file them. Republicans control both chambers.

The budget is expected to be only slightly larger than the one for the current year. Overall spending is expected to be about $24.7 billion. About 47% of that, or $11.6 billion, is coming from the federal government.

Legislative budget writers often focus most of their attention on the state general fund, which comprises about 26% of the overall budget. That is expected to be nearly $6.4 billion for the coming year.

The Senate recently voted to revise the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, the complex formula that is supposed to give public schools enough money to meet midlevel academic standards. MAEP was put into law in 1997. It has been fully funded only twice, and the last time was 16 years ago.

Senate leaders said their proposed MAEP revision would put an additional $181 million into school budgets, but Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has said he doesn’t want more money going toward administrative expenses. House leaders also have not embraced the Senate proposal.

The Mississippi Association of Educators has more than 7,000 members. In her statement Friday, Jones said teachers deserve to have the resources they need to do their jobs, and schools need to ensure students are ready to learn and collaborate.

Front Photo: Sen. Derrick Simmons, D-Greenville, left, acknowledges the efforts of Senate Education Committee Vice Chairman David Blount, D-Jackson, center, and House Education Committee Vice Chairman Kent McCarty, R-Hattiesburg, to support public school education, but called for the continued efforts of educators, parents and business leaders to encourage lawmakers to secure yearly full funding for the public schools, Thursday, March 23, 2023, at a Mississippi Association of Educators news conference at the Mississippi Capitol in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)