A bill to revamp Mississippi's education funding formula passed the House despite attempts to make changes and delay a vote. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.
Transparency and simplifying the budgeting process are some of the benefits of House Bill 957 according to education chair Republican Richard Bennett of Long Beach. The new formula provides a base rate of $4800 per student. The rate bumps up to $6200 for high school students with additional funding for categories like low income and special education. Bennett defended the formula yesterday in the chamber.
"This is the recommendation. This is what the leadership wants. This is what they are committed to funding every year at the minimum so that a superintendent, a school board knows you're going to get this amount of money," said Bennett.
Some House Democrats argued $4800 is under funding education. Bryant Clark of Holmes County said the consultant, EdBuild's recommendations are more in line with per student funding in the current formula Mississippi Adequate Education Program.
"Right now with MAEP it's supposed to be about $5,300, $5,200 which is right in the range of Edbuild so I think it's worked pretty good gentleman," said Bryant.
Bennett says MAEP was only funded twice because it wasn't workable. He says he hasn't read the formula but this bill's better. Democrat David Baria of Bay St. Louis sought to phase out the 27 Percent Rule. The consultant said it favored wealthier districts by allowing them to cap their contributions to schools at 27 percent and receive state funding. Baria raised the issue with Bennett.
"Do you agree with that?" said Baria.
"I'm committed to looking at it yes," said Bennett.
"O.K. and if we had a way to do it in this bill would you agree to that?" said Baria.
"No," said Bennett.
Bennett said study groups will look at that issue and others. He added they have two years to tweek the bill before its phased in. House Democrats entered 17 amendments to make changes to the bill including the per student rate and more time to study the 354 document released last Thursday. All of them failed. The measure passed 66 to 54.