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Mississippi Schools Could Get $241 Million More As House Passes New School Funding Formula

Most Mississippi schools could soon receive greater levels of funding under a new formula the state House passed Wednesday. The bill, known as the INSPIRE Act, would “put more equity in poor districts,” the bill’s principal author, Rep. Rob Roberson, the bill’s principal author, told colleagues on the House floor on Wednesday.

The INSPIRE Act earned approval from a bipartisan 95-13 majority with 14 members voting present. The 400-plus page bill proscribes a formula for education funding based on individual student costs and would replace the current formula legislators adopted in 1997, the Mississippi Adequate Education program.

“We’ve got a program and a formula in front of you today that puts as much emphasis on equity for our school districts as anything you’ve ever seen,” Roberson, a Starkville Republican, said Tuesday. “This formula basically takes and gives an opportunity to districts that aren’t doing as well—poor districts, districts that have struggled to maintain a C. … A lot of your people out here will tell you that money doesn’t change education in the sense that you should be able to have a good school district, well, I’m here to tell you: The lack of it certainly will.”

The proposed formula is based on the cost of educating an individual student and includes additional funding “weights” for special student populations, such as low-income, English language learners, special education students and students in career-technical education programs.

“We’re giving a weight to that district that’s in poverty, for kids that are in special needs (programs) … so that children that need additional help will have the funding to back that help up. That’s not something we’ve done before. The bottom line is, this does that,” Roberson said.

While explaining the bill on the House floor on Wednesday, Rep. Kent McCarty, R-Hattiesburg, noted that while the vast majority of school districts would enjoy funding increases under the INSPIRE Act, some well-funded districts in wealthier areas such as the Jackson suburbs in Madison and Rankin counties would experience slight decreases.

McCarty noted that he was only three years old in 1997 when the Legislature passed

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