/Gunn No decrease planned for school funding

Gunn No decrease planned for school funding

Philip Gunn, House Speaker, says that he does not expect a modified state school funding formula will result in fewer dollars going to public education despite concerns from educators and advocates. Gunn said Wednesday that he is not trying to reduce the amount of money spent on education. “I believe we are looking for ways to make it more efficient.” Some state education advocates fear that EdBuild, a New Jersey-based nonprofit, is trying to reduce school funding by revising the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP). Gunn stated that the contrary is true. “I would respond to this by saying, “Look at our track record. What has our track record over the past five years show that we are bent towards cutting funding? What has our track record shown that we are inclined to cut funding? Our track record shows that we do more, more, and more.” In fact, K-12 school funding has increased over the past few years, even when all state budgets were cut by Gov. Phil Bryant has been the K-12 education appropriator for the past two fiscal years. This fiscal year, the total appropriation for K-12 education is $2.58 Billion. This is an increase of $2.34 Billion in 2012. Gunn stated that the main purpose of the state funding rewrite and his primary goal of pushing for such a rewrite was to reduce administrative costs and increase instruction. Gunn referred to a 2015 report from a legislative watchdog agency that analyzed school district spending between fiscal years 2005 and 2014. The only budget category that saw a decline was “instruction,” which is defined as salaries for teachers and other professionals. According to the report, administrative spending rose by approximately $15 million over that period. However, instructional spending fell by about $130 millions. According to the report, spending on student support, plant operations, and transportation all increased. Gunn stated that he is still trying to find ways to shift administrative spending to instructional functions in the classroom. He doesn’t have the ideal ratio of student to administrator or teacher to administrator in mind. Gunn stated that he was impressed by the Clinton Public Schools District’s operation during his time on the school board. He said, “They do a very great job of… being efficient with admins.” “In Clinton, I remember when I was on a school board that some of the youngest grades had only one administrator. Clinton is the only state that has one school for each two grades, except high school. I believe at the high school, they have a few assistant principals.” Gunn and his policy team believe administrative issues could be addressed in the new formula. Gunn stated that while a teacher raise bill is not in the works for this session at the moment, he believes that the new formula could result in higher teacher salaries. He said that a new formula could allow local districts to have more control over the determination of teachers’ salaries. Gunn said that he hopes extra dollars will be available to reduce class size by pushing for more efficient spending. “I met with many teachers during the off-season. Gunn stated, “If you could only have one thing, what would that be?” Gunn said, “They don’t ask for a raise… they say smaller classes.” Gunn also discussed the possibility that linking funding to students could be a move to make it easier for state funding to be used through vouchers and charter schools. Senator Hob Bryan (D-Amory), one of MAEP’s authors has voiced concern. Gunn stated that he didn’t know of any proposals for such a proposal. “We passed charters three-years ago… The program is functioning, we’re going see how that goes, and let that run for awhile.” Gunn stated that charters and other programs were created solely to increase educational opportunities for those who do not have them. “That’s why it is limited to areas where schools don’t perform well.” Mississippi charter schools currently only allow for schools to be opened in districts that are rated C, F, and D. Schools in districts rated A or B would need to have their school boards approve. Rebecca Sibilia, EdBuild CEO, repeatedly stated that EdBuild believes in a student based formula. This is one that establishes a base student price for regular students. This formula can then be modified by including funds or weights for students with special needs. These include academic, economic, and special education requirements. EdBuild calls the MAEP formula that the state currently uses a hybrid model. This means that some parts of it are student-based and others, such special education funding, are based upon teacher units. Sibilia’s new formula would presumably eliminate any “program-based” components. Since Gunn and Lieutenant Gov. Some have expressed doubt after Tate Reeves revealed in October that EdBuild was hiring them. They also asked how legislative leaders knew the MAEP wouldn’t work if it was routinely underfunded. After a legislative committee passed a policy that made the Legislature’s no bid contract with EdBuild (and all its contracts) confidential, the skepticism increased. After the Legislature received negative attention, it was released. Attorney General Jim Hood sent a letter to legislator leaders stating that their policy was illegal. The Legislature will decide the details of the formula, but Gunn’s office stated that any recommendations EdBuild makes will be made to the Legislature. His office did not say when that information would be made public. To support this work, you can make a regular donation to us today as part of the Spring Member Drive. Our reporters give a human face to policy’s impact on everyday Mississippians by listening more closely and understanding their communities. To ensure that our work is aligned with the priorities and needs of Mississippians, we are listening to you. Click the button below to let us know what you think. This Story
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