How many excuses can state leaders make for their failure to provide adequately for our children’s education? A lot! Including some false allegations designed to discredit public schools so that they won’t have to fund them. Here are a few…
The MAEP formula directs more money to administration and less to classrooms. Wrong! The formula does not direct any money at all to administration. The fact is that the MAEP is the source of funding for every classroom in our state. There is no other pot of state money that funds our classrooms. Furthermore, for the vast majority of Mississippi school districts, MAEP funds are not sufficient to cover the cost of teacher salaries and benefits and keep the lights and heat on in our classrooms – much less pay for technology, textbooks, advanced classes, science labs, and all of the other things that the state is supposed to fund and doesn’t. If the Legislature wants to fund our classrooms, it needs to fully fund the MAEP.
The money just isn’t there. Wrong! The state budget has increased by $2.2-billion since 2008. The K-12 budget has shrunk by $3.5-million in that same timeframe.
Schools aren’t accountable for the state tax dollars they spend. Wrong! Can you think of any other state agency that gets graded each year for the quality of the services it provides?
The poverty data isn’t verified. Wrong! Poverty percentages are calculated based upon the number of children in a district who qualify for the federal free lunch program, which is based upon their parents’ income. The federal government randomly selects a number of those applications to audit each year.
The MAEP formula is flawed or hasn’t been thoroughly studied. Wrong! The formula was developed by national experts, and it has been thoroughly reviewed by experts twice since it was enacted in in 1997. As a result of the first review, the high-growth component of the formula was added to ensure that districts with significant, consistent growth in enrollment were paid for those new students. In every case, the formula was found to be valid and a sound measure of adequate funding.
School districts won’t encourage good attendance if we move to funding based upon enrollment rather than attendance. Wrong! Teachers always encourage good attendance, not because of funding (though that is important), but because students need to be present to learn. School districts are held accountable for student performance, and students won’t perform well if they aren’t in class. Mississippi is one of only a handful of states that fund districts based upon average daily attendance rather than enrollment, though school districts must provide a teacher, a desk, textbooks, transportation, and all services and materials for every student enrolled, not just those in attendance on a given day. Funding by average daily attendance was enacted as a way to lower school funding. The draconian “63% rule” was added by the Legislature in 2013 to drive down funding even more. Clearly, those who raise this issue are more interested in dollars than they are in educating children well.
The fact that the formula is recalculated only once every fourth year inflates MAEP numbers. This is laughable! The original MAEP formula called for a recalculation of the MAEP formula every year. Several years ago, legislators claimed that the annual recalculation caused the formula to produce too high a number, so they changed the law to call for the recalculation every fourth year, hoping to drive down costs. Now, some elected officials complain that the every-fourth-year recalculation results in too high a cost. Educators have been willing to have the formula calculated either every year or every fourth year; they just want it to be fully funded. This is one of the best examples of elected officials using a red herring, attempting to discredit the MAEP formula and reduce funding for Mississippi schoolchildren.
Educators and students have lived up to their end of the bargain (see more here). It’s time for the Legislature to do the same.