State Auditor Pickering Recommends Changes to MAEP
By: Knox Graham
JACKSON, Miss.—State auditor Stacy Pickering spoke Tuesday to legislators about numerous issues plaguing the Mississippi Adequate Education Program currently.
The program known as MAEP for short was started in 1997 by law, which lays out a formula, designed to ensure adequate education for all Mississippi school children.
And more precisely it helps provide school districts with the resources needed for achievement in the classroom.
“Forty-three percent of our tax dollars out of our state budget go to education,” he said. “But yet I as the state auditor cannot tell you that formula is accurate.”
Pickering said his office has found large errors in the funding process for MAEP, and in large part, two reasons in particular.
He said the average daily attendance for schools and the free/reduced lunches have been a problem.
There is no set definition for schools on what is considered a countable child each day. A kid can be there for 10 minutes and being counted for some, and others he or she must be there five hours.
This failure to have a systematic attendance policy has allowed some schools to play the system, whether purposefully or not.
“That’s why this matters to the taxpayers first and foremost, they just want to know that their money is being spent in not only an accountable way, but an accurate way we can go back and check.”
As for the free and reduced lunches, the lack of tracking kids who legitimately need this is lacking he said to lawmakers. Pickering said there are instances where a school has a much higher percentage of children getting these free lunches than the percentage of poverty in the area, thusly costing the taxpayers extra money.
Pickering said right now there must be changes to the formula for educational spending in a year where the budget is already tight.
“Right now [the money] is not being spent in a manner that can be audited and held accountable.”