Scheme Would Strike School Funding Formula from Law

Heads up – the 2018 Legislative Session starts January 2, and reputable sources tell us that the House leadership plans an early move to eliminate the school funding formula from law, erasing the Legislature’s obligation to provide adequate funding for public schools.

Legislators and superintendents say that House leaders have summoned small groups of legislators to show them “their numbers” (local district impact data) on what the leadership describes as a rewrite of the MAEP – without showing them the actual bill.

If reports are accurate, the “numbers” being shown superintendents and legislators are not reliable; they are not driven by a formula and will not be backed up by the stripped-down law. We are hearing that the leadership is promising a slight increase in next year’s appropriation to get superintendents to support the proposal, but that the numbers they are using to sell their plan will not be required in the law. Their proposed law will not require any specific amount of funding for public schools.

Here’s how their supposed funding plan works: the Leadership will come up with an arbitrary amount they want to spend on K-12 education and then manipulate the base student cost to produce that outcome. The “multipliers” or “weights” they talk about will simply determine how that arbitrary amount of funding will be divided among school districts.

This is in line with previous acknowledgements by state leaders that they prefer that state law not “tie the hands of the Legislature” to a certain level of funding that schools should receive. They want that decision left to the whims of the Legislature so that they can claim to be providing “full funding” to schools no matter how insufficient the appropriation.

Please make sure your legislators understand that:

  • Multipliers, or weights, are not a funding formula, they simply determine how the arbitrary appropriation will be distributed to schools

  • If the funding formula is stripped from the law, school districts will have no way to predict how much funding they might receive from one year to the next; they won’t know how many teachers they can afford to hire or what classes and programs they can offer

Two decades ago, our Legislature made a pact with educators: they would hold teachers and students to high standards, test their progress, and report their outcomes publicly. In return, the Legislature promised to provide teachers and students the resources they need to be successful. The pact was called the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. Educators have been held to their end of the bargain, and the current Legislature has raised significantly the bar by which students and teachers are measured. The Legislature has reneged on their promise of sufficient school resources time and again. Will they now vote to remove their end of the MAEP deal from state law entirely?

The Legislative Session begins in just a few days. It’s time to hero up, y’all! Our children need us. Ask your legislators to stand up for public schools and insist on a fair formula – a real formula – for public school funding. Together, we’ve got this!

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