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Pickering unable to certify education program calculation

JACKSON — State Auditor Stacey Pickering says is unable to certify the accuracy of the FY 2015 final estimate calculation of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP).

Members of the Legislature and the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) were notified.

“I am unable to certify the MAEP calculation again this year because the data used by the Department of Education is (inaccurate) and unreliable,” Pickering said. “And because there was a recalculation of the base student cost this year, these errors and flaws will be compounded and will remain uncorrected over the next three years until the next recalculation takes place.”

The Office of the State Auditor has found:

• School districts are not in compliance with House Bill 1530, new legislation designed to standardize the average daily attendance counts across the state. ADA data accounts for $1.9 billion of the MAEP formula, but many school districts are not able to comply partially because MDE failed to work with software companies on a statewide level to ensure they have timely and effectively implemented software changes to uniformly account for the new law.

• The “at-risk” part of the MAEP formula, $82 million total, relies on free lunch program application data, which does not require proof of income eligibility and is difficult to verify due to federal audit restrictions.

• The add-on cost salary increment used in the calculation, specifically special education, vocational education and gifted education is arbitrary. This is an ongoing trend for at least the past five years.

OSA recommends MDE verify and utilize the most current data for all elements of the MAEP estimates.

OSA also recommends MDE compile budget requests, based on research, analysis, documentation and presentation of fact-based evidence, that project the costs of meeting the actual needs of our public schools.

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