The Mississippi Association of Educators held a press conference on Tuesday, March 7 to show their excitement for the Mississippi State Senate’s efforts to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP). Erica Jones, the president of the organization, expressed, “Our students are using old textbooks. What we know about the money is that the money will be there for not only teacher pay raises but for our students as well. There is going to be money there for our students to receive the materials that they need. We know that our students need updated books and technology.”
As was reported by the Jackson Advocate last November in the article “Critical items the 2023 Mississippi Legislature should pass” by Dr. Ivory Phillips, twenty-five years ago, the legislature created the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP), which was in response to the need to increase and level the funding for the public school districts of the state. Over this time period, it became the formula for fully funding education in the state of Mississippi. But, in its 25 years of existence, it was only fully funded twice.
As it stands, the districts have been continually underfunded or inadequately funded for over two decades. However, after the Senate Appropriations Committee, in tandem with the Senate Education Committee, met to discuss fully funding the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, the Senate unanimously passed the amendment to HB1369 on Tuesday. “We are in a position where we can fully fund MAEP,” said Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Senator Dennis Debar (R-District 43) while introducing the amendment.
As mentioned, this will mark only the third time that MAEP has been fully funded since the program was established in 1997. In the amendment to HB1369, MAEP funding will increase by $181.1 million across the state. Jackson Public Schools will see an increase of about $14 million from 2023 to 2024. And the Hinds County School District will see an increase of approximately $4 million.
The passage of the amendment was a collaborative effort led by Senator Debar, Senate Appropriations Chair Briggs Hopson (R-District 23), and Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann, as well as others.
Despite opposition from Governor Tate Reeves, Lt. Governor Hosemann talked about the collective effort that went into this process along with the fiscal soundness of the state and how that is allowing for the funding of education. He commented, via social media, “The most important resource we have in Mississippi is a child’s brain. House Bill 1369, shepherded through the Senate by Dennis DeBar, will update a decades-old formula and provide an additional $181 million for schools. Passed 52-0.”
“We have been working on this for several years and talking about it and talking about it. We are in a good fiscal sound state. That is reflective of the work Senator Hopson has done on Appropriations and Senator [Josh] Harkins has done on taxes,” stated Senator Debar.
The amendment to House Bill 1369 proposes changes that address the inflation and local contribution. According to The Parents’ Campaign, the bill holds the same formula for figuring out the base cost for each student. The basis of the MAEP formula is established by multiplying average daily attendance, or the number of students attending a district, by the “base student cost.” The base student cost is only recalculated every four years. Between the recalculation years, there is a formula the state can use to adjust for inflation. Each school district is also required to contribute either 28 mills of local property tax or 27% of the base student cost, whichever is less.
The new program keeps the structure of the MAEP formula, but proposes two changes. First and foremost, the program reworks how the formula is adjusted for inflation between the recalculation years. Second, the updated formula that is proposed by the Senate would mandate that local districts contribute the lesser of either 29.5% of base student cost from, an increase from the current 27% – or 28 mills of property tax. The proposal would change the portion of the base student cost that is adjusted for inflation from 40 percent to 25 percent.
Dr. Phillips also stated in his November article that “public education needs to be fully funded – including teachers’ pay – in order to equip the state’s youth to gain a truly first class competitive education in order to help the state’s economic development, in order to stem the tide of public school educators migrating elsewhere, and in order to improve the quality of life for us all.”
The bill will now go to the House to be considered.