Geoff Pender: MAEP a mythical creature

The latest Census report, using 2011 figures, on per-student spending showed Mississippi ranks 47th, at $7,929, counting state and federal funds (about $5,150 of that is state). But it ranked 23rd in per-student spending on general administration.

The 2013 Mississippi Superintendent’s Annual Report shows public schools spend 5.7 percent on school administration, 4.5 percent on general administration and 67 percent on instruction.

Frierson notes: “Every study, all research, every report and pretty much any group, whether liberal or conservative, agrees that spending in the classroom, on instruction, has the greatest impact on education … It’s hard to explain to a taxpayer, to the parents, that we would spend more on administration and less on teachers and in the classroom.”

Frierson said he’s not advocating any cuts to education spending — he hopes lawmakers can provide more in coming years as the economy appears to be slowly perking up.

And he says education advocates shouldn’t worry if lawmakers redirect formula money, promising “we’ll use a scalpel, not a sledgehammer.”

But Nancy Loome, director of the Parents Campaign, said legislators “micromanaging” school spending is a bad idea, and that schools have done an admirable job of dealing with severe shortfalls in recent years.

“Fully fund MAEP, then let’s talk about tinkering with it,” Loome said. “I think Chairman Frierson’s intentions are good. But until the state fulfills its obligation, we don’t need to do too much nitpicking. I understand it’s borne out of frustration, but we don’t need the Legislature micromanaging schools. That’s not the job of the Legislature … I think the Legislature is doing more poorly than school districts are.”

Geoff Pender
Clarion Ledger