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Lawmakers could shift existing money into new school formula

The $53 million needed to pay for the first year of a proposed new Mississippi public school funding formula could come from other money currently going to education.

Posted: Jan 12, 2018 9:50 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The $53 million needed to pay for the first year of a proposed new Mississippi public school funding formula could come from other money currently going to education.

That raises the question of whether schools would actually get any more money in the new formula proposed by House Speaker Philip Gunn. The Clinton Republican's plan, in a bill filed Thursday, outlines a $107 million increase in spending over five years.

House Education Committee Chairman Richard Bennett said Thursday that House leaders may sweep other money now flowing to schools into the new formula. Bennett, a Long Beach Republican, said one possible source is $97 million Mississippi spends on vocational and technical education. That money now flows to high schools and community colleges, to pay career-technical teachers, develop courses and buy equipment. Additional career-technical funding for K-12 schools is inside the current formula, called the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.

Republican lawmakers had previously discussed rolling some non-formula spending on education into a new formula.

"There are things outside the formula that are going to education," Bennett said. "It's not like the school is going to lose that money."

House Bill 957 , the Mississippi Uniform Per Student Funding Formula Act, is Gunn's vision for the formula. It 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 get an extra bump.

Two House committees are scheduled to discuss the plan Monday. Bennett said he expects the House Appropriations Committee to vote on the bill Tuesday, which would send it to the full House.

Not counting charter schools and agricultural high schools, the formula would spend $109 million more than lawmakers allotted this year. That's a 5 percent increase, or $232 per student. But because some money could come from existing programs, districts might get less. Implementation would stretch to seven years in Gunn's bill, with every district guaranteed no losses through 2020 and then gains or losses of up to 3 percent through 2025.

Although the proposal would boost funding inside the formula, it would be $157 million less than the Mississippi Adequate Education Program legally mandates for next year. The Legislature has fully funded the adequate education program only twice in 20 years. Lawmakers have spent $2.1 billion less than mandated levels since 2009.

Sen. Hob Bryan said the proper comparison is to the amount demanded by the current formula. The Amory Democrat wondered why GOP leaders haven't moved the money they've found into the current formula "to help alleviate the illegal funding situation we've got now."

"They're trying to take off the books an objective funding formula and replace it with a funding formula that is whatever Philip Gunn says it is," Bryan said. "The speaker's goal is to reduce funding for public education below what's on the books."

One key question has been whether the plan would mandate future adjustments, as the current formula does. Gunn's bill instructs the state Department of Education, beginning in 2023, and then every two years thereafter, to recommend changes based on the "actual costs of education in the state of Mississippi," research in education finance and public comment. The Legislature is required to "review and revise" the formula in 2023, 2025 and then every four years thereafter. But the bill doesn't require lawmakers to adopt or vote on the department's recommendations. Adjustments in the current formula are automatic.

The bill also requires state Auditor Stacey Pickering to audit enrollment reports in as many districts as he can, requiring the state to financially penalize districts that Pickering finds have reported inflated numbers. The state Department of Education must create a financial rating system for each district, including whether spending is producing academic results, with penalties for low-performers including a state takeover.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 297581

Reported Deaths: 6808
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19829231
Hinds18966395
Harrison16899283
Rankin12851265
Jackson12754234
Lee9722163
Madison9522204
Jones8042148
Forrest7295138
Lauderdale6879228
Lowndes6062140
Lamar593982
Lafayette5768114
Washington5235130
Bolivar4632124
Oktibbeha443295
Panola433798
Pearl River4219132
Warren4145115
Pontotoc411071
Marshall406595
Monroe3998129
Union397074
Neshoba3857171
Lincoln3630104
Hancock353378
Leflore3402122
Sunflower321386
Tate304674
Pike302797
Scott296771
Alcorn292763
Yazoo292266
Itawamba290775
Coahoma283169
Tippah280265
Copiah280159
Simpson277881
Prentiss271258
Marion258878
Wayne255741
Leake254572
Covington250480
Grenada248978
Adams235978
Newton233353
George232845
Winston222579
Jasper214545
Tishomingo213266
Attala210571
Chickasaw202054
Holmes183470
Clay179452
Stone173529
Tallahatchie171839
Clarke170773
Calhoun158728
Smith154333
Yalobusha146036
Greene128133
Walthall125441
Montgomery123540
Noxubee123431
Perry123335
Lawrence121621
Carroll119725
Amite112435
Webster111132
Jefferson Davis102931
Tunica99824
Claiborne99130
Benton94024
Humphreys93128
Kemper91523
Quitman77514
Franklin76520
Choctaw70317
Jefferson62927
Wilkinson62727
Sharkey49217
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 499819

Reported Deaths: 10148
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson720331403
Mobile36423741
Madison32708469
Tuscaloosa24457422
Montgomery22805523
Shelby22276219
Baldwin19935289
Lee15083161
Calhoun13963296
Morgan13801255
Etowah13419327
Marshall11460215
Houston10130264
Elmore9515190
Limestone9440139
St. Clair9057228
Cullman9000183
Lauderdale8630214
DeKalb8509175
Talladega7647165
Walker6601260
Jackson6552104
Autauga634792
Blount6256128
Colbert6010121
Coffee5261104
Dale4685107
Russell408134
Franklin400879
Covington3999107
Chilton3922104
Escambia379573
Tallapoosa3637143
Clarke344553
Chambers3434111
Dallas3428142
Pike293173
Marion288996
Lawrence286287
Winston258668
Bibb246558
Marengo245357
Geneva240670
Pickens226357
Barbour213951
Hale212969
Fayette202857
Butler201666
Henry183741
Cherokee178240
Monroe166739
Randolph165441
Washington157136
Macon147845
Crenshaw146955
Clay146254
Cleburne140341
Lamar133933
Lowndes133151
Wilcox123125
Bullock117736
Conecuh107224
Perry106427
Sumter101032
Coosa90324
Greene88932
Choctaw56123
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