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Mississippi House advances new public school funding formula

(Craig Ford)

Mississippi House members chose Republicans vision of practicality and transparency in education funding Wednesday over Democrats' aims for more money and more equitable treatment of poor students.

Posted: Jan 18, 2018 4:34 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi House members chose Republicans vision of practicality and transparency in education funding Wednesday over Democrats' aims for more money and more equitable treatment of poor students.

After three-plus hours of debate, the House voted 66-54 to advance House Bill 957 , a measure sponsored by House Speaker Philip Gunn to rewrite Mississippi's public school formula after 20 years of wrangling over the current Mississippi Adequate Education Program.

After the vote, Gunn said the new formula offers "predictability — what the superintendents have been asking for: understanding — everybody can understand it. It's just going to provide a more reliable stream of funding."

Democrats, though, countered that Republicans want to replace the current formula to end the political headache of being bashed for falling short of the funding goal that the adequate education program mandates. Although the new bill calls for the Mississippi Department of Education and lawmakers to periodically study adjusting spending levels, it doesn't mandate increases for inflation — or for any other reason.

"Now, the legislature can decide every year what amount it wants to spend on public education without regard to what it actually costs to educate our children," said House Minority Leader David Baria, a Bay St. Louis Democrat. "This is a sad day for public school advocates."

Republicans, though, have been frank that removing that mandate is one of their goals.

"If you escalate it every year, it gets to be an unrealistic number," House Education Committee Chairman Richard Bennett, a Long Beach Republican, said during debate Wednesday.

The bill envisions increasing funding by $107 million over today levels after a seven-year phase in. But the proposal at that point would spend $157 million less than the current formula legally mandates next year.

A total of 24 school districts are projected to lose money, while 118 are projected to gain. However, questions remain about where lawmakers will get the additional money.

The bill would provide a base student cost of $4,800, allocated to educate a student with no special requirements. It would then add extra per-student amounts for special education students, gifted students, high school students and those learning English. Extremely rural districts also would get an extra bump.

Bennett argued the new plan was better because the current formula gives out money for some things, such as gifted students or career-technical education, based on how much a district is spending, meaning the money isn't distributed equitably on a per-student basis.

"MAEP was not a fair formula by any stretch of the imagination," he said.

Bennett and other leaders had said previously that they were looking at rolling other educational funding from other pots into the new formula. However, on Wednesday, Bennett said that he hoped to find money from growing revenues to fund the measure. Current projections show $53 million would be needed in the 2021 budget.

"This is what the leadership wants," Bennett said. "This is what they are committed to funding every year at a minimum."

Members voted down 17 amendments offered by Democrats after approving two offered by Bennett. Statewatch, a bill-tracking service, said that was the most amendments offered to any bill since at least 2004.

Several Democrats focused on trying to change the bill so that the base student cost would rise automatically with inflation or some other number. Baria proposed increasing the base cost to $4,900, index it to inflation and prohibit ever lowering the floor below $4,900. "We don't want to come back here and have this fight every year about whether we increase that base student cost."

Some Democrats also focused on Republican leadership's decision to preserve a rule that guarantees property-rich districts only pay for 27 percent of the total formula cost, when state and local contributions are combined. That rule means more state money flows to some property-rich districts. Bennett promised more study of that question, but rejected efforts to change it now.

Other Democrats focused on how the formula uses the Census Bureau's measure of child poverty to determine how much extra money a district gets to educate poor students. They said they believe those estimates don't reflect that in some districts, more affluent white students are in private schools, leaving a higher share of poorer black students in public schools.

Here is how individual lawmakers voted on the measure:

Republicans voting yes (64):

Aguirre, Tupelo; Arnold, Booneville; Baker, Brandon; Barnett, Waynesboro; Barton, Moss Point; Beckett, Bruce; D. Bell, Fulton; Bennett, Long Beach; Bomgar, Madison; Bounds, Philadelphia;

Boyd, Mantachie; Brown, Nettleton; Busby, Pascagoula; Byrd, Petal; Carpenter, Burnsville; Chism, Columbus; Corley, Lumberton; Crawford, Pass Christian; Criswell, Olive Branch; Currie, Brookhaven;

DeLano, Biloxi; Denny, Jackson; Eubanks, Walls; Eure, Biloxi; Foster, Hernando; Gipson, Braxton; Guice, Ocean Springs; Gunn, Clinton; Hale, Nesbit; Haney, Gulfport;

Henley, Southaven; Hopkins, Southaven; M. Huddleston, Pontotoc; Kinkade, Byhalia; Ladner, Poplarville; Lamar, Senatobia; Mangold, Brookhaven; Massengill, Hickory Flat; McLeod, Lucedale; McNeal, Leakesville;

Mettetal, Sardis; Mims, McComb; Morgan, Morgantown; Patterson, Biloxi; Pigott, Tylertown; Powell, Brandon; Read, Gautier; Roberson, Starkville; M. Rogers, New Albany; R. Rogers, Pearl;

Rushing; Decatur Scoggin, Ellisville; Smith, Columbus; Snowden, Meridian; Steverson, Ripley; Touchstone, Hattiesburg; Tullos, Raleigh; Turner, Baldwyn; Weathersby, Florence; White, West;

Wilkes; Picayune; Willis, Diamondhead; Wilson, Madison; Zuber, Ocean Springs.

____

Democrat voting yes (2):

Cockerham, Magnolia; Middleton, Port Gibson.

____

Republicans voting no (9):

Ford, Vicksburg; Hood, Ackerman; Horne, Meridian; C. Johnson, Hattiesburg; McGee, Hattiesburg; Oliver, Winona; Sanford, Collins; Shirley, Quitman; Staples; Laurel.

____

Democrats voting no (45):

Anderson, Escatawpa; Bailey, Greenville; Bain, Corinth; Banks, Jackson; Baria, Bay St. Louis; Williams-Barnes, Gulfport; C. Bell, Jackson; Burnett, Tunica; Blackmon, Canton; Calhoun, Jackson;

Clark, Pickens; Clarke, Jackson; Denton, Vicksburg; Dixon, Raymond; Dortch, Raymond; B. Evans, Monticello; M. Evans, Preston; Faulkner, Holly Springs; D. Gibbs, Jackson; K. Gibbs, West Point;

Hines, Greenville; Holland, Plantersville; Holloway, Hazlehurst; Horan, Grenada; R. Huddleston, Sumner; Hudson, Shelby; Hughes, Oxford; Jackson, Como; R. Johnson, Natchez; Karriem, Columbus;

Mickens, Brooksville; Miles, Forest; Paden, Clarksdale; Perkins, Greenwood; Reynolds, Charleston; Scott, Laurel; Straughter, Belzoni; Sullivan, Okolona; Sykes, Jackson; Taylor, Starkville;

Thomas, Indianola; Walker, Carthage; Watson, Hattiesburg; Wooten, Jackson; Young, Meridian.

____

Democrats not voting (1):

Myers, McComb.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 32888

Reported Deaths: 1188
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds264246
DeSoto176718
Madison135536
Jones115949
Neshoba101673
Harrison100312
Rankin99915
Lauderdale93781
Forrest92743
Scott78515
Jackson70417
Copiah62715
Washington62610
Leake59820
Lee57521
Holmes57041
Oktibbeha55728
Wayne55116
Warren54020
Yazoo5336
Grenada5227
Lowndes51513
Leflore50756
Lamar5007
Lincoln49234
Pike46617
Sunflower4368
Monroe43135
Lafayette4194
Covington3965
Panola3926
Bolivar37018
Attala36523
Simpson3603
Newton35210
Adams33218
Tate31912
Pontotoc3166
Marion30812
Chickasaw29119
Claiborne28910
Winston28210
Noxubee2738
Pearl River26932
Jasper2666
Marshall2643
Clay25111
Smith23412
Union23311
Coahoma2136
Clarke21125
Walthall2087
Lawrence1892
Yalobusha1838
Kemper17914
Carroll17111
Humphreys1569
Tallahatchie1564
Montgomery1432
Calhoun1425
Tippah14211
Itawamba1408
Hancock13413
Webster12811
Tunica1153
Jefferson1143
Jefferson Davis1144
Prentiss1113
Greene1089
Amite1043
George943
Wilkinson949
Tishomingo911
Quitman891
Alcorn762
Perry764
Choctaw754
Stone722
Franklin472
Benton420
Sharkey400
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 46424

Reported Deaths: 1032
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5687161
Mobile4315136
Montgomery4275109
Tuscaloosa238248
Marshall181511
Madison16208
Lee146337
Shelby141424
Morgan11575
Baldwin10399
Walker101825
Elmore97519
Dallas9189
Franklin90616
Etowah83413
DeKalb7905
Chambers64727
Autauga64312
Butler63728
Tallapoosa60669
Russell5890
Unassigned53826
Houston5366
Limestone5251
Lauderdale5146
Cullman4905
Lowndes47922
Pike4525
Colbert4426
St. Clair4402
Escambia4358
Calhoun4035
Coffee3923
Covington38110
Bullock36910
Barbour3622
Jackson3432
Talladega3337
Dale3261
Marengo32011
Hale31722
Wilcox2958
Clarke2876
Sumter28512
Winston2773
Chilton2762
Blount2581
Monroe2442
Pickens2446
Marion24114
Randolph2289
Conecuh2187
Macon2029
Choctaw19912
Bibb1981
Greene1888
Perry1791
Henry1403
Crenshaw1253
Washington1217
Lawrence1130
Cherokee1117
Geneva860
Lamar801
Fayette721
Clay692
Coosa601
Cleburne391
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