The Mississippi Department of Education will be cut more than most other agencies in the latest round of state budget cuts ordered by Gov. Phil Bryant.

Bryant said the decision came down to a simple choice.

“It was so we didn’t have to cut MAEP (Mississippi Adequate Education Program),” Bryant said, referring to the state’s statutory formula dictating how much money is required for each school district to deliver an adequate education every year.

“It was either administration or the classroom,’ the governor said. “I choose the administration.”

The education department will lose about $4.9 million, or around 3 percent, said State Superintendent Carey Wright on Thursday.

Wright said her staff will look at its budget line by line to decide where to make the cuts. However, she said, she will give priority to the agency’s reform efforts around literacy and early childhood education.

The department must report back to the Governor’s office and the Department of Finance and Administration by the end of the month.

Bryant cut the budget earlier this month to compensate for a nearly $57 million accounting error after legislative staff overestimated the state’s expected revenue as the Legislature prepared the fiscal year 2017 budget.

The $56.8 million cut amounts to just under 1 percent of the total general fund budget of $5.8 billion. In addition to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, Bryant also spared spending cuts for the Institutes of Higher Learning Financial Aid, the Military department and the Veterans Affairs Board.

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Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.