Proposed changes to Mississippi’s education funding law could leave the state’s public schools with less money.
The Mississippi Adequate Education Program is the state statute that dictates how much money the legislature should appropriate to schools on a per-pupil basis. Drafted in 1997, the mechanism requires the funding to be based expenditures from C-rated school districts -- it's how officials come up with what’s called the “base student cost.”
But there’s a push this legislative session to change the funding formula. Instead of calculating “base student cost” using “C” districts, officials would like to use A, B, or A and B districts as the standard.
Republican Representative Charles Busby of Pascagoula is among the lawmakers pushing for the change.
“I think we want to emulate our best leaders,” Busby says. “I don’t think we want to emulate the run-of-the-mill folks. We have our best business managers in our A and B districts, our best money managers. They’re doing the best job, typically, with fewer dollars. So why would we not want to try to emulate what they’re doing.”
Yet, if these changes are implemented, according to data provided by the Mississippi Department of Education -- that could mean less money for the state’s public schools. For example, if the state used the "B district” standard for school funding in fiscal year 2015, instead of “C” districts, it would mean full MAEP funding would have been more than $90 million less that year. If the state used the A and B requirement then MAEP would have been $80 million less.
Carey Wright is the state Superintendent of Education. She believes lawmakers are trying to do what’s right.
“I think they are genuinely trying to find a way to resolve some of the complaints that have been put forth,” Wright says. “It’s just like let’s look at it this way, let’s look at this way, let’s look at it this way. I think they are genuinely trying to find a way to come up with a formula that’s going to make everybody happy.”
Some lawmakers say they will also push for funding to be based on the number of students enrolled in a school. Currently, funding is based on how many students are in attendance on a given day.