The fact that the year 2013 consisted of 365 days, 525,949 minutes, and 31,536,000 seconds does not make it unique. Here are the numbers that do:
1) 292 million
The number of dollars the Legislature underfunded the K-12 education formula. The Mississippi Adequate Education Program sets the baseline amount that each school district needs to serve its students. Nevertheless, ignoring their statutory requirement to fully fund education has become a tradition for Mississippi’s lawmakers, having only met the “adequate” bar twice since MAEP was passed in 1997. Mississippi’s schools have been shortchanged by $1.3 billion over the past five years alone. The FY 2014 budget passed last spring will fall short by another $290 million.
The D.C.-based Center for Budget and Policy Priorities found that Mississippi’s per pupil allocation has dropped 13.1 percent between FY 2008 and FY 2014, among the largest reductions in the country. That means Mississippi is spending $648 less per student than five years ago. Average teacher salaries, already the lowest in the region, have also declined — a signal that many experienced educators are leaving the profession.
2) 19.7 percent
The number of youth ages 16-24 who are not in school and not working. Mississippi’s rate of youth disconnection is higher than the national average (14.6 percent) due to a combination of low high school completion and high unemployment. In effect, one in five young Mississippians has already been shut off from most opportunity for economic advancement. Not surprisingly, that statistic has a strong correlation with crime, a troubling prospect for the state that already has the nation’s second-highest incarceration rate.
The number of Southern states besides Mississippi with a negative net migration rate. Between July 2011 and July 2012, nearly 700,000 more people moved to the South than moved out. Mississippi, the lone exception to the Sunbelt influx, lost over 3,000 residents. (Technically, these data are from last year, but there’s no evidence that the trend subsided in 2013.) In total, 67 of Mississippi’s 82 counties have lost population through migration since 2010. If you want to figure out why, the previous three numbers are probably a good place to start.
The number of minutes before President Obama announced his gun control executive actions on January 16 that Gov. Phil Bryant declared them unconstitutional. On that morning, the governor sent a letter to Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Speaker Phillip Gunn asking the Legislature to block the president’s “likely… anti-constitutional violation of our rights.” His staff posted the letter on Facebook at 9:10 a.m. CST. However, the president didn’t begin the press conference that unveiled his executive orders until 10:51 a.m. EST, or 11:51 CST — a full two and half hours after Bryant’s proclamation. It would not be the last time that the governor issued a threat to nullify a federal mandate before it existed. Just two weeks ago he signed an executive order declaring his intention to ignore any hypothetical new educational standards, curricula, or assessments set by the federal government. To Bryant’s credit, though, his 161-minute head start on President Obama was one of the few examples of a Mississippi leader doing anything in 2013 that could be described as “forward-looking.”
Happy New Year, everyone.