Despite a slight increase, the MAEP is underfunded this year by $272-million, bringing total underfunding since FY2008 to $3-billion, an ominous benchmark for our public schools. See your school district’s MAEP allocation and underfunding amount here.
Legislators have pledged to do better. Notably, they are in the process of putting together study committees to craft a plan to move teacher pay to the Southeastern average and ensure sufficient recurring revenue to pay for it. Teacher pay accounts for the vast majority of MAEP funding.
In the recent legislative session, legislators took important steps to protect school district funding for the 2021-2022 school year, holding districts harmless for average daily attendance and providing additional MAEP funds to cover the growing cost of teachers’ health insurance benefits. Funding for the teacher pay raise that was passed in the recent legislative session will flow to school districts in a separate allotment this year and will be folded into MAEP funding in subsequent years.
Recently, The Parents’ Campaign Research and Education Fund completed a comparison of each school district’s FY2020 spending on teacher salaries and benefits to its MAEP allocation. The study revealed that statewide, the costs of instructional salaries and benefits exceeded the total MAEP appropriation by $111-million. In fact, 73 of the 140 traditional school districts spent more on teacher salaries and benefits than they got in state MAEP funding.
Lest someone try to convince you that full funding of the MAEP is an unreasonable ask, consider our neighbor Arkansas, comparable to Mississippi in median income and GDP. Arkansas outspends Mississippi on K-12 public education by $1,200 per student, with most of the difference attributed to higher teacher salaries. In contrast, our per-student gap between current MAEP funding and full MAEP funding is much smaller, at $614 per student. Surely Mississippi children and teachers are worthy of an investment similar to that of Arkansas.
As we move toward the convening of the legislative study groups that can address these disparities, we will send you additional information that will help you have informed conversations with your legislators about the needs of Mississippi students and teachers. Your voice is important, and together, we’ve got this!