Funding for education is falling short because Medicaid is devouring a larger share of state money than it did a few years ago, a top Mississippi budget writer says in a letter to teachers and school administrators.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, wrote that expanding Medicaid would create more uncertainty about funding for all levels of education, from kindergarten through universities.

“Do you think we should expand the Medicaid program knowing how it may cost the educational community?” Frierson wrote. “Can the educational institutions afford not to take a position on the expansion of the Medicaid program?”

But a Democrat who used to be a budget writer disputes the premise of Frierson’s letter. Rep. Cecil Brown, of Jackson, said in an interview Wednesday that money for education has fallen short because of many financial choices, including giving tax breaks to corporations and setting aside hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild the state’s financial reserves.

“Education hasn’t been funded because there hasn’t been a willingness to fund it,” Brown said, criticizing Republican leaders, including former two-term Gov. Haley Barbour, who left office in January 2012.

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