OPINION: New education funding formula sends more money to K-12 schools

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Sen. David Blount

By Senator David Blount

Jackson Advocate Guest Writer

One of the most important accomplishments of the 2024 legislative session was passing a new formula to fund our state’s public schools. The new formula replaces the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) that was passed in the 1990s and only fully funded twice.

The Mississippi Student Funding Formula sets an objective base student cost (average teacher pay / teacher-student ratio) and includes an inflation factor. This year the base student cost is about $6,695. It establishes additional funding allowances (or weights) for certain students (gifted, those taking career training classes, English learners) and for poverty indicators and rural areas. It considers each school district’s local school tax contribution and property values. Most importantly, after passing the new formula, we fully funded it. 

Where this goes next is important. If we fully fund this new bipartisan program with only minor adjustments it will be a success. However, some see this as a first step in a very different direction. The Speaker of the House has said he supports vouchers for private school tuition. Other House leaders have pushed direct appropriations to private schools and tax credits to allow a person to donate money to private schools instead of paying state income or property taxes. While I respect the decision of any family regarding a child’s education, I believe public money is meant for public schools. Charter schools in Mississippi have not been successful; voucher programs in other states have been extremely expensive. We must build on this new formula, not break this new bipartisan consensus that has built our recent success.

Overall, we increased investment in education by $239 million (including covering increased retirement and health insurance for teachers). This is in addition to a $100 million funding increase and $300 million in teacher pay raises last term. These investments are getting results. The Department of Education just reported: “Mississippi improved its education ranking to 30th in the nation – the state’s highest ranking ever – according to the 2024 Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Book [just] released. The Data Book ranked Mississippi 32nd in 2023 and 39th in 2022. The state was ranked 48th in education in 2014 and has experienced continued improvement.”

Other education highlights: A few years ago, I wrote the law establishing the Winter-Reed teacher loan repayment program. I’m happy that this year we passed legislation to improve and expand access to help more new teachers pay off college loans. We also passed a good bill that allows retired teachers to return to work while protecting the integrity of the retirement system. This will help with teacher shortages and allow good teachers to stay in the classroom. And we provided an additional $3 million toward career coaches for a total appropriation of $15 million. This will result in 200 coaches in 195 schools, meaning every secondary school which has requested a career coach will have one next year. We have also continued to increase Pre-K enrollment.

As Vice Chairman of the Senate Education Committee and a former Jackson Public Schools parent, I am committed to supporting our public schools every year in Jackson, Byram, and Terry.

Thank you again for the opportunity to serve the people of Hinds County. If I can help you or your family, please contact me by email (dblount@senate.ms.gov) or by calling my office at the Capitol (601-359-2220). I am also on Facebook and Twitter (@sendavidblount).

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OPINION: New education funding formula sends more money to K-12 schools

By Jackson Advocate News Service
June 30, 2024