Legislators Float Potential Changes to the MAEP Formula

Legislators appear intent on making changes to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP), the formula that determines the level of funding the state is required to send to public schools. In recent years, lawmakers have suggested a number of changes, almost all of which would reduce the amount called for by the formula. Following are some of the proposals that have been floated, most of which are changes that would reduce the amount of state money required to fully fund public schools:

Change Definition of At-risk Student (oppose)

Currently, students who are eligible for free lunch are considered at-risk, and the MAEP formula includes a 5% increase to fund additional supports for these students. Research shows that poverty is the most significant factor outside the classroom affecting student achievement. Legislative leaders have indicated they want to change the definition of an at-risk student from poverty-related to those who score in the lowest performance category in both ELA and math on state assessments. Few students currently score in the bottom performance category on both tests, so few students today would qualify as at-risk. This change would

  • impose a financial penalty on districts that succeed in doing exactly what we want them to do – moving children to proficiency

  • significantly shrink MAEP funding to school districts overall

Redirect Funds to Higher Performing Districts (oppose)

Rep. Charles Busby of Pascagoula explained this proposal to a group of parents in his district last fall: “It would fix the formula by redirecting the funds to districts that are having positive outcomes, and not simply basing it on the number of students in a district and by using base student costs derived from C districts.” This change would

  • punish low-wealth districts by taking dollars away from them and shifting funds to high-wealth districts

  • further starve districts that already suffer from a low tax base and struggle to serve a high-poverty student population

  • deprive low-performing districts of the very tools and resources they need to improve achievement levels of at-risk students (most of these districts already are performing better than their ratings indicate; with more students in poverty, more resources are required to equip students for success; in many districts, when like students are compared, lower rated districts are actually outperforming some districts with higher ratings)

Calculate the MAEP Using A/B Districts (oppose)

Leaders have said repeatedly that they want to change the MAEP by basing the formula calculation on the spending of A and B districts, rather than that of C districts. A and B districts have far lower poverty rates than C districts, which must spend more to provide the additional supports and resources required by at-risk students. This change would

  • if calculated based on the spending of only B-rated districts, reduce the amount of state money required to “fully fund” the MAEP by almost $100-million, a five percent reduction (impact analysis by MDE, FY 2015)

  • if calculated based on the spending of only A- and B-rated districts, reduce the amount of state money required to “fully fund” the MAEP by $80-million, a four percent reduction (impact analysis by MDE, FY 2015)

  • if calculated based on the spending of A-, B-, and C-rated districts, reduce the amount of state money required to “fully fund” the MAEP by almost $60-million, a three percent reduction (impact analysis by MDE, FY 2015)

The Bottom Line

If the leadership did not know by the start of this legislative session what changes to the MAEP formula it wanted to propose, it should not push them through behind closed doors in the last days of the session. Rather, legislators should hold public hearings this summer or fall to gather public input and allow a full debate during the 2017 Legislative Session on any proposed changes. On an issue of this importance, the people of Mississippi expect nothing less than a legislative process marked by maximum disclosure and transparency.

Note: ADM and 65% Rule

Unlike the proposed changes listed above, two measures related to the MAEP formula have been fully vetted through the legislative process, including the education committees of both chambers, and floor debates and votes by the House and Senate. 

Average Daily Membership – support this change

Remove 63% rule – support this change

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