The current leadership has for years suggested that the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) formula should be changed – they just haven’t been able to tell us what changes need to be made. Altering the school funding formula is serious business. It could have a dramatic effect on the quality of education provided Mississippi children and the equity with which state funds are allocated to schools – both of which have an impact on every quality of life issue in our state (jobs, income, crime, etc.).
The current formula was created with years of study, hearings, and debate, and with the benefit of significant outside expertise. Any changes to the formula should be made with equal diligence and deliberation.
It appears that just the opposite could be in the works. HB 458 brings forward the complete MAEP statute, but not a single change to the law is proposed in the legislation – yet. The bill includes a reverse repealer, a measure that will force the bill to a conference committee where three members of the House and three members of the Senate, appointed by the Speaker and Lieutenant Governor, could make changes in secret.
The conference process is intended to be used to negotiate final language when the chambers disagree on details of a bill. Unfortunately, it appears that “conference” will be used as a back door to the entire MAEP formula, circumventing the legislative committee process to make changes to the MAEP that will reduce school funding without a full public vetting.