EdBuild, the consulting firm hired by the leadership to recommend changes to the school funding formula, presented its report to a packed house at the Capitol this afternoon. You can see the full recommendations here.
Unfortunately, we still do not have the most important piece of data: the impact that the EdBuild recommendations will have on each local school district. The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) should be given the variables being considered and should generate a district-by-district comparison of EdBuild’s recommended formula to what the current law, the MAEP, requires.
Some of the more significant changes recommended are:
• Adoption of a base student cost that will not be adjusted from one year to the next to reflect the rising cost of providing a quality education, yielding a formula that will become antiquated almost immediately. Best we can tell, the recommended base cost would remain the same indefinitely – until the Legislature decides to change the law. By the time the new formula is fully phased in eight years from now (EdBuild’s suggestion), inflation will have made the funding amount woefully inadequate. Inflation in the last eight years has been about 15%.
• Changing the definition of “poverty” to decrease significantly the percent of students for whom districts receive at-risk funding. EdBuild also suggests a large financial boost for each student who meets the new poverty definition. We won’t know the true effect of those changes until MDE runs the numbers. It could be significant.
• Decreasing the state’s required portion of the base student cost, and increasing the local contribution required of many districts, by eliminating the “27% maximum” obligation of local districts. All districts would be required to provide toward the base student cost the amount generated by 28 mills, a change that would reduce significantly the state funding going to property-rich school districts.
Mississippians now need to see precisely how legislators will incorporate these recommendations into our school funding law, and what the impact of the changes will be on their own schools, before the legislation is considered in committee or on the floor.
Please contact your legislators with these questions:
Do you promise to vote to table any changes to the school funding law until I and other constituents have had a chance to review the local impact and weigh in on the proposed changes? (Tabling a bill delays a vote until later.)
Do you promise to vote against any proposal that results in a lower level of funding than is now required by state law?
Find contact information for all legislators who represent your school district.
Ask for the same commitment from Lt. Governor Reeves, Capitol: 601.359.3200, and Speaker Gunn, Capitol: 601.359.3300.
The EdBuild report contains numerous variables. Notably, it does not include measures that would direct more funding into the classroom, a primary reason given by the leadership for rushing to adopt a new school funding formula. In fact, EdBuild recommends giving local districts more flexibility to spend funds as they see fit.
We at The Parents’ Campaign will continue to dissect EdBuild’s recommendations and report to you what we believe the impact will be on Mississippi’s public schools. In the meantime, be sure to get a commitment from your legislators to include you in an open, honest dialogue about any proposed changes to the way our schools are funded – BEFORE they vote. Together, we’ve got this!