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The state must commit to funding education

In an unexpected move, a small number of Republican senators voted down an attempt to rewrite the state’s public school funding formula.

A rewrite of the formula has been a priority for Republicans for years, and House Bill 957 was expected to pass. Instead, a 27-21 procedural vote killed it.

Brookhaven’s Sally Doty did not vote either way Thursday.

“I was not ready to vote yes. I was not ready to vote no,” she said Thursday night. “I think there are some good components of this formula, but my questions had not been answered satisfactorily.”

Opponents of the bill had argued passionately that many school districts would see funding decrease under the plan. The prospect of losing funds compared to the current plan did not sit well with superintendents and teacher groups.

Supporters argued the plan would have been simpler and distributed more resources to districts based on their students’ needs.

“I could not find anyone who was advising me to support this,” said Chad McMahan, a Guntown Republican who voted among those who killed the bill. He said he had consulted superintendents, parents, teachers and business people among the four school systems in his northeast Mississippi district.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said the plan would have increased funding by $107 million over seven years, but it would have spent $157 million less than the current formula mandates next year, according to The Associated Press.

Any plan that reduces funding to school districts obviously needs more work. To argue that some districts are getting too much state funding is a bit absurd. Mississippi must be committed to funding public education. HB 957 did not appear to meet that obligation.