Wednesday, the House passed the Mississippi Uniform Per Student Funding Formula Act of 2018, or HB957 with a vote of 66-54, two Democrats voting for the bill, 9 Republicans voting against it. The bill was the culmination of EdBuild recommendations into a new funding formula that would replace the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP).
The debate began at 2:00 p.m. when the House convened and didn’t wrap up till nearly 7:00 p.m.
“Today, we have accomplished the first step of our goal of sending more dollars to the teachers and students in the classroom,” said Speaker of the House Philip Gunn. “We have worked with the Lieutenant Governor and the Senate to craft this legislation that creates a more equitable, fair funding formula. We look forward to continue to working with them as we see this bill through the legislative process.”
Top talking points of the evening:
- Has there been enough time to read and analyze the formula before voting on it in the House and sending it to the Senate for review?
- If those who authored HB 957 did not read or understand MAEP, how can the problems they point out be fixed if they aren’t comprehended?
- A base student cost was set at $4,800 with additional weights for specific student needs: Special education for different tiers, English language learners, gifted students, low income and high school.
- Why was the recommendation by EdBuild to remove the 27% rule not included in the new formula?
- Funding is based on average daily membership (ADM, enrollment figures would be monitored three times a year).
- This new bill will require more money. This is not an appropriations bill, so where will the money come from?
The over 350 page bill was presented in a joint hearing on Thursday the 11th, and made it all the way to the House floor before a week’s time. This speed alone caused concern to many already weary of a new formula.
But Speaker Gunn assures, “This new formula gives our districts more flexivility and predictability in pending, something superintendents have requested for years. School districts can spend their allocated money as they see fit to meet the needs of the students in their district.”
The bill was authored by Speaker of the House Philip Gunn and has been represented and defended by Rep. Richard Bennett, Chairman of the Education Committee.
According to Bennett the new formula is student based, would allow districts autonomy in spending all funds allocated to them, determine a new weighted system for different students, and establish a base amount of monies per student at $4,800 per year, $6,200 for high schoolers.
Rep. Busby, on the House Appropriations Committee said, “The formula is easy enough for the average citizen to calculate how much money is going to each school, unlike MAEP which requires expenditure data from each school.”
One of the greatest points of concern is that the new formula fails to apply one of EdBuild’s primary recommendations and that is the removal of the 27% rule. This rule currently redirects $119 million in state aid that might have otherwise been used to increase statewide base amounts per pupil.
“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. Baria was one to offer an amendment to the bill that would require a phase out of the 27 Percent Rule, it was denied 73-45.
The Speaker’s office assures that continued interests focusing on a plan to eliminate that regulation by next year will be required by the Mississippi Department of Education.