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Senate Ed Committee Tackles New Funding Bill

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Senate Ed Committee Tackles New Funding Bill
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Rebecca Sibilia, Answering Senators' Questions
Desare Frazier

Mississippi senators are combing through a House bill that would rewrite the state's education funding formula.

House Bill 957 rewrites the state's current education funding formula The Mississippi Adequate Education Program. Yesterday the Senate Education Committee questioned Rebecca Sibilia, the consultant who came up with recommendations for the bill. She says MAEP is difficult for the public to track.

"Because MAEP is calculated based on teacher units and the assumptions of resources that need to be in a classroom. It's nearly impossible for the public to understand how those numbers are being calculated in a year over year basis," said Sibilia.

Education Chair Republican Gray Tollison of Oxford says the new bill is understandable and predictable. It provides a base rate of $4,800 per student and $6,200 for high schoolers. There's additional funding for categories such as special education and low income students.

"In the future of the legislature wants to increase the low income weight they can do that or if they want to increase the student base. Right now we're just trying to implement this formula," said Tollison

Some senators said MAEP isn't the problem. But failure to fund it is. MAEP has only been fully funded twice in 20 years. Senator Sollie Norwood a Hinds County Democrat likes that the new bill provides additional funding for low-income students and special education. But the bottom line for him is:

"It's not going to serve us well if we don't provide the resources to fulfill the formula obligation," said Norwood.

Senator Gray Tollison says the bill increases funding by $107 million. Despite that increase, it's $157 million less than the current formula mandates for next year. Tuesday is the deadline to vote the bill out of committee.