Monday a joint committee hearing took up House Bill 957, the Mississippi Uniform Per Student Funding Formula Act of 2018, essentially an education funding rewrite primarily authored by Speaker of the House Philip Gunn and Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Snowden.
Chairman of the Education Committee, Rep. Richard Bennett gave a brief overview of the bill to a room full of legislators and educators. He said the majority of the “meat” of the bill was in the first 38 pages.
- The funding formula would be student need based, not number of teacher based. Bennett called it the simplest way to calculate funding based on enrollment.
- Districts would have autonomy in the spending of funds allocated to them.
- Those funding numbers would be determined annually by the Mississippi Department of Education
- A weighted system would be redefined based on amount of students in high school grades, those in lower income districts, english language learners, varied disabilities or special education services required and gifted students.
Transparency and accountability committees would be required to ensure that funding dollars are in the classroom, one of the main concerns of current funding woes with MAEP.
There have been concerns of relying on census data, so the bill would require the State Auditor’s office to audit districts enrollment three times a year for daily membership versus enrollment numbers.
“Mississippi is moving from input based formula, to outcome focused funding. To do this, improvements must be made. There must be more transparency. Outcomes must be able to be compared against peer districts,” said Bennett.
Bennett said that the funding formula would be implemented at the start of FY2019, but that districts will be “held harmless” which means they won’t receive less dollars for at least two years.
Questions still hang overhead as to where the education funding dollars will come from, even with the new formula. Representatives ensure that those monies will be allocated through other legislation.
A quick turn around is expected. Representatives said the bill would be picked up in the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday meaning it could be voted on in the chamber as soon as Wednesday. Rep. Holland asked if taking more time for lawmakers and the public to read the bill would be acceptable, but Rep. Bennett said there is no reason to delay.