Bryant pitches school funding change

Published 6:00 am Friday, December 16, 2005

State Auditor Phil Bryant said the current funding formula forMississippi schools is “too complicated” and a simpler plan isneeded.

The Mississippi Adequate Education Program was one of severaltopics Bryant touched on while speaking Wednesday during theBrookhaven Kiwanis Club meeting.

Bryant, a Republican eying a run for lieutenant governor sincecurrent office holder Amy Tuck is term-limited, is part of a groupof legislators, school officials, parents and others who arelooking to revamp the school funding formula that has been aroundsince 1997. What is needed, he said, is a simple and effectivefunding system that improves educational outcomes.

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“If we’re going to fund your school, we want to know how yourstudents are doing,” Bryant said.

Bryant stressed the importance of funding going to instructionalservices instead of administration. He suggested a provision inwhich 65 percent of funds would be directly spent oninstruction.

“We want the money to flow to the student and the teacher in theclassroom,” Bryant said.

Currently, Bryant said, an average of 72 to 78 percent ofeducational funding is designated as being spent on instructionalservices. However, he said that percentage includes money spent onprincipals and some other administrative activities that manypeople would not consider instructional.

Under Bryant’s suggestion, schools and auditors would be lookingat the same categories and totals in determining if the 65 percentthreshold is being met. He said the threshold would be important inthe future as schools grow and have to meet the instructionalfunding percentage first.

“They’re going to have to adjust to it,” Bryant said about theschools, “and I think they can.”

Bryant said the 65 percent stipulation could force consolidationin some areas. The auditor said that may not necessarily meanconsolidation of schools, but some administrative activities couldbe combined under one system.

The MAEP review panel is looking to have recommendations forchanges prepares in time for the 2006 Legislative session.