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Lawmakers at odds over how to fund public schools as Senate passes opposing plan

The House and Senate remain at odds over how to fund Mississippi’s K-12 public education system.

Earlier this week, the House voted 92-13 to scrap the current funding formula known as the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) and instead create an entirely new formula that would be rooted in a per-student basis, according to lawmakers. Those in favor of the INSPIRE Act cited constant confusion and commotion surrounding MAEP, which has only ever been fully funded three times since its inception in 1997.

“It’s time that we get behind education and put our money where our mouth is,” Republican Rep. Rob Roberson, who authored the bill and chairs the House Education Committee, said while presenting the bill in the chamber. “It bothers me that we have children out there that do not get a good education in this state, and it should make you mad too.”

In an interview before the vote, House Speaker Jason White said the new formula would cost the state roughly $3 billion to compensate in year one. However, in the long run, it would be a much more coherent route to fund public education.

“I could bring an iPad up here and I can say, ‘How do you want to tweak this? You want to put more emphasis on low income? You want to put more emphasis on special education? You want to put more emphasis on workforce development? Here are the weights.’ You can tweak them any way you want, plus in the base student costs, and it gives you a number,” the first-year Republican speaker touted. “It’s very easy to understand.”

Roberson and White are championing new legislation because they believe it individualizes the process, giving more money per pupil based on the number of students coming from low-income households, those who have special needs, and other factors – rather than just handing over a lump sum to each school district. The bill would create an advisory committee of education professionals tasked with recommending to the legislature how much money each of the state’s 144 school districts needs.

“It’s time that we started

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