Region’s schools may be losing millions in land money

A flawed formula to figure special school lands money paid to North Mississippi school districts has been discovered by Delbert Hosemann of Jackson, a Republican candidate for secretary of state.

The error may have cost the region’s school more than $2 million this year, he insisted to the Daily Journal on Tuesday.

He says the state should be paying the full amount and promises to push for restoration of the funds, if elected to the statewide office, which oversees the school lands.

Hosemann sat down with members of the Daily Journal editorial board Tuesday to explain his findings.

The money in question is named Chickasaw Cession funds. It’s basically the North Mississippi equivalent of 16th section land funds, which earn millions for school districts that own the lands south of a line from Columbus to Tunica County. The 45 school districts in counties north of that line – including Lee County and Tupelo – don’t have these lands because many years ago the state’s politicians sold them. Now, the Legislature allocates payments to these school districts in lieu of 16th section payments.

“Over $2 million is being lost for North Mississippi children” this year because an outdated formula counts teacher units instead of students attending class, Hosemann said. That comes to about $19 per student for the 117,000 public school students in North Mississippi.

By using a per-student formula, Lee County and Tupelo schools would gain about $200,000 more per year, according to Hoseman. In populous DeSoto County, it’s closer to $400,000.

Nobody’s fault
The use of an outdated formula isn’t anyone’s fault, he insists. It was agreed upon in 1981 by state officials and a federal court, but now it doesn’t account for the growth in the number of students in North Mississippi, he said.

“There is no smoking gun,” Hosemann noted.

Hosemann faces fellow Republicans Jeffrey Rupp, Mike Lott and Gene Sills in the Aug. 7 primary.

NE Miss Daily Journal
7/11/7