Public schools cut $40 million from last year

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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.

Gil Ford Photography

Rep. John Moore, R-Brandon

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.