Rep. John Moore, R-Brandon Credit: Mississippi Legislature

The Legislature on Monday passed the appropriations bill for K-12 education in less than 20 minutes and with little debate.

The bill funds the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, the formula that dictates how much money goes to school districts each year, at about $40 million less than last year.

However, compared to the amount school districts are receiving after a series of mid-year budget cuts ordered by the governor, the cut is a little less than 1 percent below the current year.

MAEP’s final appropriation for Fiscal Year 2018 is $2,201,038,129. With other agencies cut as much as 14 percent, K-12’s share of the budget cuts was relatively small.

The cut represents a reduction of about $80 per student, House Education Committee Chairman John Moore told members when presenting the bill.

Rep. Jay Hughes, D-Oxford, told Moore that by his math, this amount means the MAEP is underfunded by $445 million, according to the amount called for by law.

The MAEP has been fully funded only twice since being passed into law in 1997.

During Senate discussion of the bill, Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, spoke on a potential rewrite of the school funding formula and said he hopes the Legislature will start over.

Bryan, referring to what was supposed to be a relatively quick revamp of the school funding formula based on recommendations by New Jersey-based consulting firm EdBuild, said areas such as special education funding need extra time and attention.

The budget for the Mississippi School for the Blind and Deaf remained level, while funding for Chickasaw Interest, Educational Television Authority and the Library Commission all saw cuts. Funding for Vocational and Technical programs remained level from last year.

Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.