Proposed changes to funding the state’s public education system was a hot — if not the top — topic entering the 2017 legislative session. And then nothing happened.
But last week, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves pledged to push once again for a shift to a weighted pupil formula for state education funding.
Using some of Mississippi Today’s articles, here’s a look back at the public school funding issue as it evolved during the year:
State legislative leaders the previous fall had signed an outside consultant to review the state’s funding formula and recommend changes.
Those recommendations came in a public presentation in January, some two weeks after the Legislature had convened. The key recommendation: the state should move to a weighted funding formula.
The presentation left many wondering about the impact on their local districts. It prompted Democrats in the Legislature to call for more time to research and review options before imposing a change.
Legislative leaders, however, said they would work on a funding revamp and present it for a vote during the session. However, when it was time for the first deadline to reveal details of the plan, legislators were asked instead to vote on a dummy bill.
As the legislative session entered its second month, Mississippi Today reporter Kate Royals sought to answer many of the unresolved questions about the school funding rewrite.
As work on the funding formula continued behind closed doors, legislators faced another deadline for floor action on the bill. But details remained elusive and concerns were raised about how little information was being provided to rank-and-file members about the potential impact of the changes on their local school districts.
In the end, no details came forward and the bill that would have changed state funding of education died.
Questions still remained, and Mississippi Today’s Kayleigh Skinner addressed some of the larger concerns about school funding and the tortured effort to bring about changes.
The last hope for changes to the formula rested on a special legislative session that was needed to fund several state agencies. But the funding formula was not included in the call for the special session.
In the wake of the session a couple of legal steps took place. One was a lawsuit over Gov. Phil Bryant’s cuts to state education funding, part of overall state budget cuts. But a court dismissed that lawsuit.
Later in the year, the Mississippi Supreme Court heard arguments in an older case brought by some school districts seeking to force the Legislature to fully fund its current education program. The court ruled against the districts.
So as we approach another legislative session with renewed talk about the education funding formula, some stakeholders weighed in on the issue.
Follow Mississippitoday.org in January as we track the latest developments in the school funding matter.