From Empower Mississippi president Grant Callen:
Today at the State Capitol, EdBuild, the national firm who was hired to study the state’s education funding formula, presented their much-anticipated recommendations on how to update and modernize the formula. We have said from the beginning of this process that we would like to see a formula that is more student-centered, equitable, and transparent. Upon initial review, EdBuild’s recommendations appear to accomplish all three.
The full 80-page report from EdBuild can be found here and a summary of their presentation is below.
Mississippi’s Investment In Education
EdBuild began their presentation by discussing Mississippi’s investment in K-12 education, which has been criticized by some as being inadequate. The reality is that the state is providing what EdBuild described as an “outsized portion of personal income toward public education.” Mississippi spends $44 for every $1,000 in personal income on education compared to the national average of $38, ranking Mississippi 19th nationally in spending. Said another way, Mississippi is a poor state, but the amount we spend on education as a percentage of what we have to spend puts us 19th in the nation.
Additionally, according to EdBuild, Mississippi’s K-12 education system is far more reliant on state and federal dollars, and receives far less funding from local sources, than the national average. Almost forty-eight percent of general formula funds come from the state compared to just 32.5 percent nationally. A little less than 35 percent of funding comes from the local government compared to about 45 percent nationally.
The state average expenditure per-pupil this year is at an all-time high of $9,704. Of that, the effective base student cost is about $4,676 per student (based on enrollment, not average daily attendance). EdBuild recommends a new base student cost between $4,694 and $5,250.
EdBuild recommends moving to a weighted formula for specific student characteristics beyond the base that every student receives. Here are their recommendations for weights:
Increase the weight for low-income students to 20-25%. Currently, low income students receive a 5% weight in addition to the base student cost. EdBuild recommends raising this percentage to 20-25%. EdBuild also recommends moving away from the National School Lunch Program as an income measurement and instead use the United States Census Bureau’s estimates of district school-aged poverty rates.
Create a weight of 15-25% for English language learners. Currently, Mississippi provides no additional money for students who fall in this category.
Implement a multi-tiered weight for students with special needs. We currently fund special education on a model known as teacher units, but the updated formula would create three tiers based on a child’s disability:
Tier One: A weight of 60% for students with specific learning disabilities, speech and language impairment, and developmental delay
Tier Two: A weight of 125% for students with autism, hearing impairment, emotional disturbance, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, and intellectual disability
Tier Three: A weight of 170% for students with visual impairment, deaf-blindness, multiple disabilities, and traumatic brain injury.
Maintain a gifted student weight of 20-26%.
Create a weight of 30% for all high school students. A high school education generally costs more than an elementary or middle school education, so this weight would allow more funds to reach students in high school.
Create a 10% weight for students in rural districts, where there are fewer than four students per square miles.
In principle, we support these recommendations by EdBuild, but will want to read any legislation once it is introduced before we take an official position. Any significant changes in the amount of funding that school districts receive should be phased in over a few years to allow districts to adjust accordingly. We anticipate that there will be districts that receive increased funding and districts whose funding will be decreased, but the specific district breakdowns are not yet available.
Now the hard part begins. These recommendations by EdBuild are a starting point, but policymakers must now craft the legislation that will be hotly debate in the halls of the State Capitol in the coming weeks. We fully expect that the bill that is ultimately signed by the Governor will draw from these recommendations, but could vary significantly as legislators make compromises in order to unify a diverse coalition of support.
We will keep you updated as the process continues to develop.