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: 15229

Reported Deaths: 723
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds99925
Lauderdale73561
Madison72023
Scott65012
Neshoba63038
Jones59825
Forrest55338
DeSoto5337
Rankin4217
Leake42112
Holmes39728
Copiah3104
Jackson30513
Attala29216
Yazoo2734
Newton2714
Leflore25831
Harrison2577
Lincoln25628
Monroe25525
Lamar2355
Oktibbeha23512
Lowndes2119
Pearl River20931
Pike20211
Adams19615
Noxubee1856
Wayne1771
Warren1719
Washington1687
Covington1652
Bolivar16011
Jasper1574
Smith15011
Lee1496
Kemper14411
Clarke14318
Chickasaw13312
Lafayette1314
Coahoma1214
Carroll11711
Marion1159
Clay1124
Winston1121
Claiborne1112
Lawrence1021
Simpson1010
Yalobusha905
Hancock9011
Tate891
Grenada893
Wilkinson889
Itawamba877
Union835
Marshall833
Montgomery831
Sunflower813
Jefferson Davis772
Tippah7311
Panola703
Webster691
Calhoun644
Humphreys607
Amite601
Walthall550
Tunica543
Prentiss523
Perry503
Choctaw432
Jefferson421
Tishomingo320
Pontotoc323
Stone300
Franklin282
Tallahatchie271
Quitman260
George251
Alcorn171
Benton150
Greene121
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 17359

Reported Deaths: 618
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2191115
Jefferson1780102
Montgomery163238
Tuscaloosa73814
Marshall6879
Franklin5457
Lee54033
Shelby50319
Tallapoosa42364
Butler40217
Chambers35325
Walker3442
Elmore3398
Madison3274
Baldwin2839
Dallas2603
Morgan2511
Etowah24811
DeKalb2433
Lowndes23812
Coffee2291
Sumter2206
Autauga2164
Houston2094
Bullock2034
Pike1980
Colbert1782
Russell1670
Marengo1636
Lauderdale1612
Hale1598
Calhoun1543
Choctaw1518
Barbour1501
Wilcox1447
Clarke1422
Cullman1260
Randolph1257
Marion12111
St. Clair1181
Pickens1114
Dale1100
Talladega1093
Chilton1001
Limestone940
Greene944
Winston880
Covington771
Jackson772
Crenshaw763
Macon754
Henry742
Bibb721
Washington686
Blount611
Escambia573
Lawrence480
Geneva400
Conecuh391
Coosa381
Monroe372
Perry370
Cherokee373
Clay272
Lamar230
Fayette150
Cleburne141
Unassigned00
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