Mississippi Governor signs law to set a new funding formula for public schools

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves has signed legislation that will change the way the state pays for public schools, ditching a formula that brought political pressure on lawmakers because they usually budgeted less money than required.

Republican Reeves signed the new plan, called the Mississippi Student Funding Formula, on Wednesday. When it becomes law on July 1, it will replace the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which was fully funded only two years since it was enacted in 1997.

The new formula is designed to give districts a boost in funding for students who can be more expensive to educate. For example, extra money would be calculated for students who live in poverty, those with special needs, those in gifted programs, those with dyslexia or those who are learning English as a second language.

The Mississippi Student Funding Formula would help poorer districts with weak local tax bases, said House Education Committee Chairman Rob Roberson, a Republican from Starkville.

Sanford Johnson is executive director of Teach Plus Mississippi, a group that advocates for training teachers for leadership roles. He said Thursday that the new formula is “simpler and more flexible.”

“This doesn’t end discussions about school funding in Mississippi, but they may be noticeably different going forward,” Johnson said. “For example, districts will need to make important decisions about how to invest funds in a way that will improve student outcomes.”

MAEP was designed to give districts enough money to meet mid-level academic standards. It was based on several factors, including costs of instruction, administration, operation and maintenance of schools, and other support services.

Legislators say MAEP is too complex, and many of them had grown tired of being criticized for spending less on education than MAEP requires.

Legislative leaders said the Mississippi Student Funding Formula would put about $217 million more into schools for the coming year than legislators budgeted for MAEP this academic year. But, this was one of the years MAEP was not fully funded. Legislators shortchanged MAEP by nearly $176 million this year, according to research by The Parents’ Campaign, a group that advocates for public schools.

Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

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