Dueling School Funding Plans Draw Praise, Rebuke

Public school supporters are applauding Senate Education Chair Dennis DeBar, Sen. Brice Wiggins, Sen. Chad McMahan, and the Senate Education Committee for taking a public stand today in support of a fair and objective school funding formula that represents the true cost of educating a Mississippi student to proficiency in core academic subjects. The comments were made this morning during the Senate Education Committee’s debate on SB 2332. See that debate here.

The discussion centered on differences in the Senate proposal, which would increase school MAEP funding by $216-million, and a proposed House plan that would strip the objective formula from law and leave it to the Legislature to decide each year how much funding public schools should receive. The House plan appears to include the same flaws as the failed EdBuild proposal which public school supporters helped to defeat in 2018. It also appears to be similar to one pushed by school choice organizations Empower MS and the MS Center for Public Policy. The plan, which House leaders claim is “simpler than the MAEP,” is laid out in HB 1453, a 433-page bill that was introduced late yesterday. We will keep you posted as we dig through it.

Five education associations, including The Parents’ Campaign, sent a joint letter to the legislative leadership defining the essential elements that any changes to Mississippi’s school funding law must include to gain our support. (See those details below.) Any plan that does not include an objective formula for determining the base student cost would deal a devastating blow to public schools.

Please reach out to your legislators now. Ask them to ensure that Mississippi’s school funding law continues to include an objective formula for determining the base student cost and an inflation factor to account for increased costs to school districts.

Find contact information for legislators who represent your school district here.

Capitol Switchboard: 601.359.3770

Speaker White: 601.359.3300

Lt. Gov. Hosemann: 601.359.3200

The essential elements of a school funding law spelled out in the education associations’ letter to our legislative leadership are:

  • an objective formula for determining the base student cost
  • an inflation factor to account for increased costs in any year in which the base cost is not recalculated
  • additional needs-based funding for circumstances that increase the cost of educating a student, such as poverty, special education, gifted education, English language learners, career and technical education, and critical teacher needs
  • an equity provision that requires more local funding of school districts with a higher ad valorem tax base and less of those with a weaker ad valorem tax base

The Senate proposal in SB 2332 makes the same minor adjustments to the MAEP that The Parents’ Campaign and other education associations supported in the 2023 session with added wording about how the funds may be spent and pro-rated adjustments when charter students return to traditional schools. The bill:

  • increases the maximum amount in local contribution that wealthier school districts must provide from 27% to 29.5% of the base cost
  • adjusts the annual growth factor for non-recalculation years from 40% to 25% of the base cost and uses a 20-year-average inflation rate
  • holds harmless for one year school districts that would lose funding due to a drop in average daily attendance
  • specifies that 90% of MAEP funds must be spent on teacher salaries, classroom resources, and expenditures other than salaries for superintendents and principals
  • requires that a pro-rated share of a charter student’s MAEP allocation be returned to the traditional public school if the student returns to the traditional school

Fair, sufficient, and equitable funding is critical to our children’s futures. Teachers and students cannot be expected to reach the goals we have set for them without sufficient resources. Those resources should be determined by a fair and objective formula, not left to the whims of a political body that has frequently shown more interest in cutting taxes than in funding our children’s education. Please make those calls today.

This session is shaping up to be a doozy, and we promise to keep you in the loop and let you know when we need your help. Watch for a list of dangerous bills we’ll need to keep an eye on. Together, we’ve got this! 

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