/Senate changes poverty definition in its version of school funding bill

Senate changes poverty definition in its version of school funding bill

The Mississippi News Senate Education Committee will be reviewing a second version of the school funding bill that alters the calculation of poverty on Tuesday. Late Friday, Sen. Gray Tollison (a Republican from Oxford who is the chairman of this committee), sent the strike-all amend to the members. House Bill 957’s new version would allow each district to calculate its funding for low-income students using a three year average of the poverty rate. Current version of House Bill 957 funds low-income students based upon each year’s U.S. Census poverty rate. Opponents claim that this calculation does not accurately reflect the district’s makeup. It is not clear how this change would impact the estimated funding for school districts and the numbers given to lawmakers by EdBuild in recent weeks. Austin Ray, EdBuild chief of staff, stated Monday that they have not done any calculations on the new bill. Tollison stated that there would not be any significant changes to the original bill. Tollison did not return a call on Sunday. Tollison indicated last week that he and others are still working out how school districts with higher enrollments in the next two years will be compensated. However, the language of the bill doesn’t contain any specifics. The amendment, which is identical to the original, states that no school district will be receiving less in the next two-years than they did this year. However, it adds “plus any increase of state effort attributable school district’s increased student enrollment in fiscal years 2019 and 2020.” It also says that additional programs such as Early Learning Collaborative, reading intervention programs, and bus driver training programs “may” be funded outside of the formula. Jay Hughes, a Democrat representing Oxford, questioned a section of the bill that stated funding ceases “upon completion high school graduation requirements.” Hughes claimed his daughter will have completed her requirements by the end her 11th grade years, so this language would effectively cut off funding for her 12th Grade year. The Senate Education Committee will meet Tuesday morning to discuss the bill. You can view the complete bill here.