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Legislature hires organization to evaluate MAEP formula

JACKSON, MISS– Edbuild, a nonprofit out of New Jersey, has been hired to evaluate and make recommendations to update the Mississippi Adequate Education Program formula. 

Lt. Governor Tate Reeves and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn made the announcement at a joint press conference at the Capitol Tuesday.

The nonprofit was hired with a price tag of $250,000. Half of that came from a private foundation. The House Management and Senate Rules committees approved the move to pay for the $125,000, but Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said other means are being investigated to cover the costs.

“When the formula was adopted, we didn’t even have a computer in the classroom,” said Lt. Gov. Reeves. “And now we have tablets, iPads, and iPhones.”

Lt. Gov. Reeves added that the priority of the MAEP formula was also in need of an update.

“Any formula, that has over the last number of years, called for the increased spending in administration and less spending in instructional,” said Lt. Gov. Reeves. “Is a formula that ought to be reviewed.”

Speaker Gunn said the company, EdBuild, was picked to help bring the funding formula up to meet the educational needs of the 21st century.

“It’s time to re-evaluate the effectiveness,” said Speaker Gunn. “Is the formula doing what we want it to do?”

With the next legislative session looming on the New Year, Speaker Gunn was hesitant to say whether or not the recommendations for an update would be prepared in time for the 2017 schedule.

“They’re going to evaluate the current system, they’re going to make recommendations, we’re going to evaluate those recommendations,” said Speaker Gunn. “It’s going to be a give-and-take.”

The MAEP formula is comprised of more than $2.2 billion of the state’s annual budget, making it the single largest expenditure of taxpayer dollars in Mississippi.

EdBuild will being their evaluation of the program by participating in public meetings to discuss ways schools can target funding for special education, career tech programs, gifted learning, and low-income students.

Research by EdBuild has shown 37 states use student-based funding, but Mississippi’s funding is more resource based.

“Mississippi is similar to many other states that rely on a funding formula that is antiquated and arbitrary,” said Rebecca Siblilia, CEO of EdBuild in a statement. “The needs of the classroom are not the same as they were 20, 50, or 100 years ago, and states’ funding mechanisms should reflect that progress in education.”

EdBuild research has also shown that Mississippi is one of only six states that fund education for students with special needs based on programs, but the majority of states use a student-based formula for these costs. The state also does not effectively direct funds to help improve the academic performance of students in the bottom quartile of test scores.

EdBuild will begin their evaluation by participating in public meetings, which will be released at a later date.

News Mississippi will continue to follow this story.

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