On January 17, the House passed HB957, a new school funding formula for Mississippi public schools. I voted for the new formula. For me, “the way we have always done it,” and “throwing more money at the problem,” are not answers. The bill is a substantive improvement over the convoluted and outdated MAEP. HB957 targets funding in a more equitable and straightforward way.
For the first two years, school districts would be funded based on 2018 appropriations, with some districts seeing no funding changes and some, like Madison County School District, seeing immediate funding increases as enrollment numbers grow. This lead time would allow districts time to study the formula and its reporting methods. The new formula would then be phased in over five years, gradually increasing the overall investment in education by over $100 million.
The new formula is student-centered, focused on accountability and results:
• Base funding amount per student is $4800, wherever they live.
• Includes enhanced funding for low-income children, rural districts, and English language learners (for the first time).
• Creates enhanced tiers for special education funding based on student need.
• Includes higher funding for high school students.
• Calculates school funding based on “average daily membership” (i.e., enrollment, not attendance on a particular day), a better measure of the number of kids in a district.
HB957 includes significant transparency, and a process to roll back bureaucracy and regulations to allow our schools more flexibility and innovation. The bill expressly gives local control to districts as to how they spend your education tax dollars. And, it standardizes reporting and accounting, so you will be able to see and compare how districts spend tax dollars.
The status quo, the “way we’ve done it,” has left us near the bottom in education. Tonight, the MS House voted to change that, for the better. You can review these changes, which are contained in the first 38 pages of HB957, by following this link.