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Lawmakers head back to the Capitol; Education top priority

JACKSON, Miss.- The 2017 Legislative Session for Mississippi convenes on Tuesday Jan. 3, at noon. On the top of the list of priorities is the current education budget formula and a possible restructure. 

Currently, education is formatted through the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, or MAEP. It was passed in 1997 to ensure an adequate education for every child in Mississippi, regardless of community and individual income.

However, lawmakers are looking for a new formula that they believe would best fit the needs of students within the state. Discussions with a company called EdBuild began in October for a potential new formula that would replace MAEP.

“The formula is very complicated and the rewrite is going to be very complicated,” said Rep. John Moore who is also the education committee chairman. “We are pushing toward a student based formula where a higher percentage of the dollars are actually making it to the classroom and to the teacher.”

EdBuild is a nonprofit organization tasked with rewriting the current formula to be more student based, which many lawmakers believe will get more money directly to schools. The organization has worked directly with the state to modernize the school funding system in Mississippi.

Moore said that the allocation of funds per student under the current formula is too “one size fits all.”

He said it does not account enough for districts’ specific needs such as a higher number of gifted students, special needs students, or even transportation costs.

He said lawmakers are currently looking at how many categories are needed when budgeting.

“The formula in the existing plan that we have right now is not necessarily fair to the very rural school districts where there are a lot of bus miles per student,” said Moore. “Everything that is involved in the cost of each school needs to play into the formula.”

Moore said that they’re doing everything they can to get more money into the classroom, however, they are being cautious with the EdBuild proposal, as to not jump into a new formula that might not fix the existing problems.

“We don’t want to put a formula in place that we find out after we implement it that it’s not doing what we…we don’t want to rush it,” said Moore.

He said if EdBuild does not pull through, there are bills being prepared to target specific issues within MAEP without disregarding the entire formula.

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