/Reeves barely mentions MAEP rewrite on campaign trail, though, big issue for him in Legislature

Reeves barely mentions MAEP rewrite on campaign trail, though, big issue for him in Legislature

The Mississippi Adequate Education Program is the main source of state funding to support the basic operations of local school districts. Reeves, House Speaker Philip Gunn and the rewrite the school funding formula were top legislative priorities in the 2017 and 2018. Reeves blasted the media for his MAEP rewrite failure on March 17. Reeves told reporters, “I know that you’re all smiling great today.” Reeves said, “You worked very hard to kill it, and you were very much successful at doing so.” He also mentioned the Tupelo, Lee County school districts and added, “Since (new school funding) plan failed, the likelihood they’re going to receive less money next year is pretty high.” History has shown that no other school district, Tupelo included, received less funding in that year. Reeves is not talking about the MAEP rewrite, which was his top legislative priority for the past two years. He hasn’t even mentioned whether he would continue that effort as the state’s chief executive. Reeves responded to a question regarding a possible rewrite by saying, “I believe that having a qualified teacher in every classroom is the best way for every child to receive a quality education here in Mississippi.” Spending more money in the classrooms and less in the district offices is the best way to ensure that every classroom has a teacher of high quality. It is clear that the current funding formula has incentivized and encouraged more spending on administrative functions and less in the classroom. “Whatever the mechanism is to increase money in the classroom, I’m going support it,” said Jim Hood, the Democratic Attorney General, who is running this year against Reeves for the office. He also hasn’t made MAEP an issue. The Hood campaign responded to questions by saying that he supports full funding for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. Gunn, Reeves and other supporters of a rewrite Mississippi Adequate Education program, which was considered landmark legislation in education circles in 1997, claim that it allows too many dollars to be spent on administrative costs. Reeves, Gunn and other education groups that have supported MAEP conceded that the program might need to be updated. However, they pointed out that Gunn’s new funding formula did not include a mechanism for limiting administrative spending. MAEP supporters stated that they oppose the new formula because of three main reasons. The MAEP funding level can be determined by how much it costs to run an efficient “C” school or adequate school. This formula places pressure on legislators for funding education. Many legislators don’t like this pressure. The new formula’s proponents claimed that MAEP could not be funded by the state. They also stated that it more specifically allocates funds to schools according to their needs, such as the number or gifted children within a school district. Many education groups didn’t buy this argument and Reeves’ Senate won surprising bipartisan results in 2018. Surprisingly the topic of the formula’s rewrite has not been discussed much on the election trail, despite it being the most important issue in two of the four previous sessions of the Legislature. The need to fully finance MAEP, which was a key issue in previous elections, is also less talked about this year. MAEP was only partially funded twice since its 2003 enactment. It is interesting that most politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, ran in the past on the promise of fully funding MAEP. Both Phil Bryant and Haley Barbour both pledged full funding during their 2007 campaigns for lieutenant governor and governor. Reeves stated that he supports full funding to eliminate any excuse for school districts not performing as well as he did in 2015. Reeves, Gunn held a news conference a year later to announce their intention to replace the education funding system. MAEP was not fully funded in 2007 and has been underfunded for more than $2.5 Billion since then.