/Lawmakers to reconsider school funding formula

Lawmakers to reconsider school funding formula

Tuesday’s announcement by legislative leaders was that they have hired a firm to review the funding of public education in Mississippi. Lt. Gov. Lt. Gov. Gunn and Reeves stated that the Mississippi Legislature contracted with EdBuild, a New Jersey-based company, to evaluate whether the state’s current public school education formula should be changed. A new formula could be created if Mississippi officials accept the recommendations of the non-profit. It could be considered in the 2017 legislative session. The MAEP formula outlines how much money schools districts must spend each year in order to provide an education that is adequate for students. The formula was passed into law by the Legislature in 1997. It has been fully funded twice. Gunn stated that EdBuild’s foundation would pay half of the $250,000 cost of the study. This means the state will spend $125,000. Leaders said that public meetings will be held later to discuss the study. Reeves stated that “we want to determine if it makes sense to the state to modify the funding formula, and that we’re doing so in a manner that’s focused upon doing what’s best to kids.” “Doing the best for children, we believe, means increasing funding in schools while decreasing funding in district offices.” Sen. Hob, D-Amory was one of the primary authors on the MAEP. He said that he wasn’t consulted by Gunn or Reeves about the need to reevaluate the formula. Bryan stated that this is not an attempt at finding adequate funding for public schools. Bryan said, “This is not an attempt to find proper funding for public education.” Reeves stated that the study’s primary purpose is to help schoolchildren. Reeves stated that if all we were concerned about was politics in education funding, then we could simply take the money we are currently spending outside of the formula and put it into the formula. Then, everyone would be happy politically. MAEP isn’t the only funding source for public schools. The Legislature funds many education programs that are not covered by the MAEP formula. He said, “It’s no about politics of the funding formula. It’s about doing the best for children.” “We have spent nearly $50 million over the past three years to hire reading coaches to help children improve their reading skills in kindergarten through third grade. It’s not in our formula.” The study was conducted largely without the public’s input. According to reports, a group of legislators met in recent months to discuss the formula’s re-evaluation and to consult outside groups. However, John Moore, R-Brandon was the House Education Chairman. Moore said that there was nothing official happening, and that no meetings regarding the MAEP were being held that were “anything extraordinary.” (There’s) no formal conversation going on, other than what’s happened in the past couple of years.” Carey Wright, the State Superintendent for Education, told Mississippi Today last month that no one from her agency was asked to give feedback to legislators regarding the formula. Gunn and Reeves said that the contract was approved by both the Senate’s Rules Committee and the House of Representatives’ Rules Committees. Senator John Horhn (D-Jackson), who sits on the Senate Rules Committee said that he heard about the funding reconsideration when he was notified of the Tuesday morning Rules Committee meeting. The Rules Committee meetings are subject the Open Meetings Act. Last week, the meetings were posted to the Mississippi Legislature’s website. Horhn stated that she was open to any funding increase or approval for Mississippi’s public education system. “From what I can tell, the woman running this group has impeccable credentials.” Rebecca Sibilia, EdBuild CEO, stated that Mississippi is similar to other states that rely upon an outdated and arbitrary funding formula. “The classroom needs are different than they were 20 years ago, 50 years ago or 100 years ago. States’ funding mechanisms need to reflect this progress in education.” To support this work, you can make a recurring donation today as part of our Spring Member Drive. This will allow us to continue important work such as this one. 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. Republish this Story