Rebecca Sibilia of EdBuild presented her ideas for a student-centered school funding formula to a capacity crowd of observers this afternoon. The media was fully present, as well, and several decided to live stream the event due to the high level of interest. You can view video from The Clarion-Ledger here.
Ms. Sibilia advocated a weighted system that provides every student the same base amount of funding and adds multipliers (additional funding) for students who qualify in certain categories, such as elementary students (students in early grades get more funding than high school students), special education, English language learners, poverty, etc.
She was critical of Mississippi’s habit of funding programs outside of the existing formula and advocated putting as much of the total education funding as possible into the base student cost, calling this a more transparent practice. She advised that the state should not micro-manage how districts spend their state allocations, recommending that school funds be flexible to allow for innovation at the district level.
Regarding disparities in local funding amounts, Sibilia pushed for a leveling of the playing field and claimed it is the state’s responsibility to equalize funding between high and low wealth districts. She acknowledged that EdBuild’s recommendation could call for increased funding for students in poverty, and she vowed not to come back with a recommendation for less than low-income students currently receive.
One point that raised eyebrows was her claim early-on that Mississippi’s base student cost is significantly higher than that of other southeastern states. It is important to note that the base student cost is a “base” on which total funding is built and is not the same as per student funding. The base student cost is just a fraction of what many states provide their students. All reliable sources tell us that Mississippi’s per student funding lags that of every other southeastern state.
When asked if she recommended that charter schools be funded at the same level as traditional public schools, she declined to give a direct answer, even when pressed.
No specific recommendations were put forth today; the committee chairmen promised legislators that there would be additional meetings in the coming weeks. It was noted that the Lt. Governor’s office will handle the scheduling of public hearings around the state. We will watch for the announcement of those hearings and will let you know immediately when they are scheduled.
Many legislators asked good questions today. This would be a great time for you to reach out to your own lawmakers to let them know what your priorities are when it comes to funding for your child’s school. A recommendation from EdBuild is expected before the end of the year, and it would be good to get in your two cents by that time, as well.
Thank you for standing with our children and their public schools! School funding is a very serious matter, and it deserves our full attention. We promise to keep you posted as we learn more.