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Public-School Funding Showdown Looms in Mississippi Legislature Over Competing Plans

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A conflict is building among Mississippi legislative leaders over whether to tweak an education funding formula or ditch it and set a new one.

The state Senate voted Thursday, without opposition, to make a few changes to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which has been in law since 1997. The action came a day after the House voted to abandon MAEP and replace it with a new formula.

MAEP is designed to give school districts enough money to meet midlevel academic standards. It is based on several factors, including costs of instruction, administration, operation and maintenance of schools, and other support services.

“It also allows superintendents of districts to know roughly what they are getting every year because we have an objective formula,” Senate Education Committee Chairman Dennis DeBar, R-Leakesville, said Thursday.

The Senate proposal could require local communities to pay a slightly larger percentage of overall school funding. It also specifies that if a student transfers from a charter school to another public school, the charter school would not keep all of the public money that it received for that student.

Legislators have fully funded MAEP only two years, and House leaders say that is an indication that a new formula is needed.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Dennis DeBar, R-Leakesville, authored a 2024 Senate bill that would revise the current school funding formula, the Mississippi Adequate Education program, instead of replacing it entirely like a competing House proposal. The Senate passed its education funding bill unanimously on Thursday, March 7, 2024. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

The formula proposed by the House is called INSPIRE — Investing in the Needs of Students to Prioritize, Impact and Reform Education. It would be based on a per-student cost determined by a group of 13 people, including eight superintendents of school districts.

House Education Committee Vice Chairman Kent McCarty, a Republican from Hattiesburg, said INSPIRE would be more equitable because school districts would receive extra money if they have large concentrations of poverty or if they enroll large numbers of students who have special needs or are learning English

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