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Mississippi to change school...

Mississippi to change school funding. Here’s why it’s such a big deal

By: Douglas Carswell - April 30, 2024

Douglas Carswell

  • MCPP’s Douglas Carswell says last week’s education funding reform win shows that when reformers in Mississippi work together, they win. 

Imagine if all the restaurants in your neighbourhood were guaranteed the same revenue even if they managed to serve fewer customers? 

That’s pretty much how Mississippi has been funding public education for the past thirty years, under the so-called Mississippi Adequate Education Funding Formula Program, or MAEP system.

Under MAEP, taxpayer dollars are allocated in a way that suited education administrators and local bureaucrats.  Under the so-called ‘hold harmless’ provisions of the MAEP, they did not need to worry about loss of revenue, even if they lost students and underperformed. 

Last week, the Mississippi legislature finally voted to replace the antiquated MAEP system, with the new Mississippi Student Funding Formula.  HB 4130 passed unanimously in the House, and before sailing through the Senate on a 49-3 vote.

Under the new Student Funding Formula, Mississippi will fund actual students, not a self-serving system.  What does this mean in practice?

Every student will now be allocated a base amount of $6,695.  On top of that base amount, a weighted system will be used to allocate additional funds to each student depending on their individual circumstances.

MAEP treated every child as if they were an identical accounting unit on a bureaucratic spreadsheet.  As every parent knows, each child is different and has different needs.  The new Student Funding Formula recognizes this fact.  Children with special needs, or particularly gifted students, get more, as do those from lower income neighborhoods. 

The new formula has a specific weighting for career and technical education, too, which could be important for future workforce development. 

Also important is the fact that those crony ‘hold harmless’ deals, which reward mediocrity, will be terminated in 2027. 

Early on in this session, Speaker Jason White made it clear that he was 100 percent committed to getting this new funding formula passed.  Both he, and the Chairman of the House Education Committee, Rob Roberson, who authored the bill, deserve enormous credit for getting it though the legislature.  Kudos, too, to Jansen Owen and Kent McCarty.

Frankly, this bill would not have passed without a strong lead from the Governor, Tate Reeves, as well.  He made it clear that he was 100 percent behind this reform, and repeatedly talked about the need to fund students, not a system.

HB 4130 is really important for the future of education reform.  Perhaps, though, there is an even greater significance in its passage through the legislature.

What happened last week shows that Mississippi has leaders that are willing to spend political capital achieving the kind of change our state needs.  Do-nothing intransigence is not so powerful after all. 

When reformers in our state work together, they win. 

About the Author(s)
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Douglas Carswell

Douglas Carswell is the President & CEO of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.