Both House Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said there will be renewed efforts to rewrite the funding formula in the coming months.
“We’re still hoping we can move to a student-based formula,” said Reeves, who said more work will be put into the effort as the start of the 2018 legislative session in January approaches.
“The rewrite of the education formula is a conversation we are still having with other leaders and is not something we want to rush,” said Meg Annison, a spokeswoman for Gunn. “As the speaker has reiterated, we want to get a new formula right.”
Gunn and Reeves first proposed the rewrite in October and announced the hiring of New Jersey-based EdBuild for $100,000 to make recommendations on the rewrite.
Gunn and Reeves said at the time they planned to pass the rewrite during the 2017 legislative session, but never could gain consensus on which of the EdBuild recommendations to incorporate into their proposal. They postponed the rewrite to a possible special session, but now seem to be eyeing the 2018 session to make another attempt.
EdBuild is no longer under contract, but left legislators with good recommendations, Reeves said.
The Mississippi Adequate Education Program, considered landmark legislation when it passed in 1997, is supposed to ensure all school districts have the amount of money that the state’s efficiently operated level C school districts receive. The school districts also would receive extra money based on their number of poor or at-risk students.
EdBuild proposed a base student cost established by the Legislature instead of the amount of money generated by a formula. Districts would be given extra money for certain types of students, such as poor students, gifted and special education students and students who do not speak English as a primary language.
“We want to find a formula that is understandable and that will provide for a predictable stream of revenue for our school systems,” Gunn said earlier this year.
Critics of the rewrite effort, such as Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, have argued that the MAEP formula is much easier to understand than the EdBuild proposal. And they also said the only reason that the MAEP funding stream has not been predictable is because the legislative leadership and the governor have not provided the amount of funding mandated by the formula.
MAEP has been underfunded more than $2 billion since 2008.