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At Mississippi school funding hearing, many say spend more

Seeking public input on possible changes to Mississippi’s education funding formula, many people are telling legislators the most important thing is more money.

A number of speakers at a Thursday hearing were hostile to plans by Republican legislators to change the current Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which divides $2.2 billion among schools.

“I have yet to be convinced the current formula is in need of revision,” said Rebecca Temple, a Madison County teacher and parent.

They said the main flaw in the status quo is lawmakers’ failure to provide the amount of money called for by the formula. It’s only been fully funded twice since 1997.

“Without a commitment to funding, any formula is no more than public relations,” said Jeremy Eisler of the Mississippi Center for Justice.

Among common threads were that the state needs to improve buildings, pay teachers more, and provide more books and computers.

A few speakers, though, said the demands for more funding are unrealistic.

“They don’t have a money tree hidden down in the basement,” said Vince Thornton, a parent of home-schooled children from Collins.

Speakers also said the process needs to be less secretive and consultants need to have more hearings throughout the state.

“Secrecy has never been our friend, particularly here in Mississippi,” said Carrie Barksdale, a parent from Madison. “We have a long history of hiding things and pretending.”

EdBuild, the consulting firm hired by lawmakers, is supposed to submit recommendations by year’s end, allowing the Legislature to consider a rewrite in 2017.

People can email comments to schoolfinance@ls.ms.gov.

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