The Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) is a formula set by state law to determine the funding each public school district should receive from the state in order to meet academic standards established by the State Board of Education. This school year, MAEP funding is $271.7-million short of what state law says our students and teachers need to be successful.
What would adequate funding mean for our children and our public schools?
Had public schools been adequately funded over the years, they would have been in much better shape to respond to the current pandemic: a digital device for every teacher and student, electronic management and communications systems, sufficient technological infrastructure in schools, and smaller classes that allow for social distancing and more individual attention from teachers.
And our public schools would be far better equipped to meet the high standards demanded of them: more reading and math coaches, which have been instrumental in improving proficiency rates among students; expanded offerings in Advanced Placement and other accelerated classes, foreign language courses, STEM and other career-tech programs; fine arts and other electives; more dyslexia therapists; wrap-around services for under-served students, and extended school day opportunities, to name just a few.
In sum, adequate funding would mean an educational experience for our children that is more competitive with that provided the children in other states. It also would mean schools prepared to meet the challenges wrought by natural and other disasters that are inevitable.
The last time Mississippi’s public schools were fully funded was in the 2007-2008 school year. Though the Legislature voted for full funding in two subsequent years, the Great Recession caused mid-year budget cuts, and schools never received the full allocation. Since that time, Mississippi’s public school children have had their education shortchanged a staggering $3.06-billion.
Following the Great Recession and the 2011 Election, public education received short shrift, and nearly every other state agency recovered its pre-recession level of funding before public schools were restored to theirs. From 2012 through 2019, Mississippi’s public schools suffered their worst underfunding in state history. A recent study by The Parents’ Campaign Research and Education Fund found that 73 school districts spent more on teacher salaries and benefits alone (no administrator salaries, classroom materials, heat and air, etc.) than they received in their total MAEP allocation.
Per-student funding in Mississippi lags that of nearly every other state, and our neighboring states of Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee out-invest us, on average, by more than $1,200 per student. Some allege that the MAEP demands an unreasonable level of funding, but even if the MAEP were fully funded, our neighboring states would outspend us by $800 per student.
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Mississippi’s academic standards rank among the most rigorous in the nation, while our state’s per-pupil spending is among the lowest in the country.