Senator: No ed funding changes this session

Published 10:49 am Friday, February 17, 2017

A rewrite of the state’s public education funding formula isn’t likely to happen this legislative session or in a special session, according to Sen. Sally Doty.

The Brookhaven Republican said in an email that the Senate bills that dealt with the school funding died on the calendar. Doty said there has been talk of a special session or a “special session within the session” to deal with the Mississippi Adequate Education Program later, but she doesn’t expect that to take place.

“School funding takes up over 50 percent of our state General Fund budget,” Doty said in a statement. “Given that so much taxpayer money goes to our schools, we need plenty of time to evaluate possible changes.”

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A rewrite of MAEP under a proposal by education consultant EdBuild called for some school districts to gain funding while others would lose it. Brookhaven and Lincoln County school districts would both gain funding under the proposal.

Opponents of rewriting MAEP stressed that the state’s current funding formula isn’t broke, it just needs to be funded. There were also complaints about a lack of transparency in the process.

“I think this has been an enormous waste of time and money – a flagrant disregard of transparency and a victory for backroom deals in the Capitol,” said Rep. Jay Hughes, D-Oxford. “We have something that is not broken that they are desperately trying to fix.”

MAEP, since it was passed in 1997, has been the subject of many battles within the Legislature. The formula has been underfunded $1.8 billion since 2008 and is underfunded $172 million this year.

Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, earlier in the year said it wasn’t likely that a new funding formula would be adopted this legislative session since lawmakers didn’t get EdBuild’s recommendations until after the session started.

Doty said in January she was in favor of reviewing the formula.

“The current MAEP formula has been in place for 20 years and is extremely complicated. In fact, it is indecipherable to all but a handful of people,” she said. “Reviewing the formula every few years seems like a responsible course of action to me.”