Mississippi has a “Deep State,” just like the Federal Government in Washington. The longer I stay in the Legislature, the more evident it becomes. Although, laws and bills appropriating money are written to be effective and efficient, the agencies and departments sometimes find ways to circumvent the intentions of those bills. This has become obvious, while we have been distracted by the pandemic this year. The latest power play has been made by the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE). They were instructed to find preferred vendors to provide the needed electronic equipment for the school districts. Using the purchasing power of the State as a whole was meant to lower prices. Schools were not required to purchase from the preferred vendor list, if they could find more reasonable prices. However, MDE controlled the funds and local districts were told they must purchase through the MDE. As time grew short to have the computers, software, etc. in place for distance learning the Districts began to feel pressure to buy from the MDE. Not being told the cost of the equipment and, thinking perhaps they would not be reimbursed from the State Department of Education, if they purchased from outside businesses: they postponed orders. This caused a delay in students having the needed computers and other devices for several weeks after school started. Not only did this cause an interruption in the procurement process, our Districts were charged higher prices than local sellers had quoted. Local District Superintendents, have told of being overcharged from $800,000 to $1,500,000. This wasted millions of dollars statewide. Earlier in the year, we invited the MDE representatives to join the House Education Committee meeting when their budget was considered. We discussed $27+/- million dollars being moved from one place in the education budget to MAEP. Those funds had been used to pay teachers for aiding their school in moving up a letter grade or keeping an “A” ranking. We never intended to hinder that incentive for our teachers. Rather than speaking up, they waited until the budget was passed and the new fiscal year began to declare those funds moved to MAEP could not be used for that purpose. Why not speak up, when the budget was being put together? The Legislative Analyst had indicated that those funds could still pay for those bonuses. But, rather than have a huge, prolonged fight over the money: the funds were made up from excess tax collection in the last two months of FY2020. Again, why not speak up earlier? All I can determine from these actions is that controlling the money is more important than educating our children. Both of these incidents put more money in the MDE, rather than the classrooms of Mississippi. As the Chairman of the House Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency Committee, I have much more to say and limited space. Over the next weeks, I will let you know of other circumstances that have led to this conclusion. I consider it an honor to represent you in the legislature.
Please contact me, if I can assist you. My cell is 662-231-0133 or my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Your prayers are very much appreciated.
God bless, Randy.