The conversation continues on HB957,  a bill authored by Speaker of the House Philip Gunn in an attempt to rewrite the current education funding formula. On Monday Chairman of the Education Committee Rep. Bennett summarized the bill for lawmakers as well as educators on where school dollars would go if the bill is approved.

Today in the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Bennett was welcomed back to discuss and answer more questions on what many are saying could be the most impactful legislative decision this generation of children could be impacted by in Mississippi.

While the bill is set to go into effect in July at the start of FY2019, districts would be held harmless, meaning no money would be taken from their budget for the next two years. Which essentially means this year’s funding will still be MAEP.

After a brief explanation of the bill was given, several questions were asked as to the need for a rewrite, what recommendations EdBuild made would be applied, and where the additional funding would come from to support the new formula.

The bill would implement a new base amount at $4,800 per student grades K-8, $6,240 for grades 9-12.

When it comes to supplemental dollars (money added already to the base)  a new weighted system for certain grade levels is also included:

  • Low income students – 25% added
  • English Language Learner – 20% added
  • Gifted Students – 25% added
  • Student in a sparse district – 10%

For Individuals who are part of a special education program, their weighted funding is broken down into three tiers.

  • Tier 1:
    • 60% added for those with a learning disability, speech and language impairment, or developmental delay.
  • Tier 2:
    • 125% added for students with autism, hearing impairment, emotional disturbance, orthopedic or other health impairment, intellectual disability.
  • Tier 3:
    • 170% added for a student diagnosed with visual impairment, deaf-blindness, multiple disabilities or traumatic brain injury.

All of these costs are based on the estimated number of students projected to be in average daily membership (ADM) kindergarten through High school.

“It certainly has some good things in it but it doesn’t have the key recommendation from EdBuild which is the elimination of the 27 percent rule,” said Rep. Baria.

Currently the 27% rule redirects over $119 million in state aid that could have otherwise been used to increase statewide base amounts per pupil. EdBuild recommended that the rule be eliminated to help guarantee funding levels, and remove the bias for districts with a higher tax base.

According to Rep. Baria from Hancock County, he said not only was MAEP underfunded by $200 million dollars, but that this new formula requires another $107 million on top of what MAEP was actually given this year. That means it immediately calls for $53 million in new money.

Rep. Bennett said that studies would be done over the next two years to see if a phase out of the 27% rule would be efficient. He stood by his belief that the formula is simpler, easier to calculate, and more transparent that MAEP ever was or could be. No opinions were provided as to where the added revenue funding would come from, since HB 957 does not have any creation of revenue.

The bill was passed in the the committee and will now wait to be taken up on the floor.