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School Funding Reform, ‘School Choice’ Bills Among Lawmakers’ Plans

Education reforms could be coming to the Magnolia State as the new House speaker, Republican Jason White, vows to expand “school-choice” programs and reform existing public-school funding.

But the Senate president, Republican Lt. Governor Delbert Hoseman, is continuing to encourage lawmakers to prioritize public education funding for pre-K through higher education.

Reforming Education Funding

During a joint session of the Mississippi Legislature on Jan. 4, Lt. Gov. Hosemann briefly explained his proposed “Last Dollar Tuition” program, which would provide free tuition for community college students who meet certain grade-point averages and other requirements.

“Each person must have the education they need to obtain a positive economic future,” Hoseman told his colleagues. “This education must demand quality and achievement from those who provide it. It has to be adequately funded from pre-K through the highest level that our citizens need.”

Speaker White outlined his thoughts on education during his own speech to the House on Jan. 2, saying that he would ask the House to consider legislation to reform both the State’s public school funding formula and Mississippi’s K-12 accountability model.

“The formula should reflect the priorities of this body, the actual dollar spent, and the duty we have as a state to provide her people with the chance and a first-class quality education,” White said during his first speech as House Speaker. “The Accountability Model should also reflect those same objectives, while college preparedness will remain a priority.”

The Legislature established the State’s public-school funding formula, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, in 1997. The formula calculates the amount needed to provide adequate operating funding to meet the accountability scale of “Successful” or a “C” rating by the Mississippi Department of Education. It is recalculated every four years to account for inflation. Conversations around MAEP funding have long dogged legislative sessions. The Legislature has only fully funded the program twice since its creation, most recently in 2008.

Under the MAEP, local districts must contribute the equivalent of $28 for every $1,000 in assessed property value toward their annual education budget. But state law guarantees that no district will pay more than

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