Changes to MAEP need public input

Published 5:37 pm Saturday, November 19, 2016

When state leaders announced that a New Jersey company was hired to create proposals on potentially re-writing MAEP, we were surprised. While we gave those leaders some credit for thinking outside the box, we also implored them to make the process as transparent as possible.

State funding of K-12 education has been a contentious issue and any changes to MAEP — the formula that determines state funding — should be done in full view of the public.

It doesn’t look like that’s happening though. State leaders held the first public meeting with the company’s CEO Thursday. That meeting was announced just a few days prior and took place during the work day. Everyone knows that’s a sure way to reduce attendance. Most people can’t or won’t take off work to attend a meeting, even one they care deeply about.

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The meeting took place at the Capitol, which may not have been the best location. It’s doubtful that concerned stakeholders in north or south Mississippi were willing to drive several hours to attend the meeting. There was also no information about future meetings provided.

We had hoped these public meetings would take place at several locations around the state, and at a time that allows the public to attend. That may still happen, but it doesn’t look that way now.

That, combined with the news that the House Management Committee voted to make its contracts confidential and not open to the public, reinforces the notion that the legislature isn’t serious about transparency. The committee’s decision means the contract with Edbuild, the New Jersey company helping with MAEP, is unavailable to the public.

That’s troubling and should be of concern to anyone who values an open government. The contract in question will be partially funded using public money. The decisions that result from Edbuild’s recommendations will affect public schools and public funding. The entire process of changing MAEP has the potential to affect this state for years to come. Shouldn’t the public have access to the contract? Shouldn’t state leaders value their input and schedule public meetings that encourage the public to attend?

Of course they should. But sadly, it doesn’t look like that’s what will happen. The state deserves better than this.