Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann discusses legislative strategies to save hospitals and rectify staffing shortages during a press conference at the State Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

Senate leaders announced Monday a plan to give an additional $181 million to K-12 public education and make changes to the state’s school funding formula so they can more easily “fully fund” it in coming years.

The funding formula used to allocate money to public schools, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, was established by the Legislature in 1997 and has been consistently underfunded every year since 2008. MAEP funding provides the state’s share of funding for the basic operations of local school districts, ranging from teacher salaries to textbooks to utilities.

“This is a continuation of the Senate, and hopefully the Legislature’s, emphasis on education,” said Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann. “The best thing we’ve got in Mississippi is a child’s brain.”

READ MORE: Senate leader wants to fully fund public education for just the third time since 2003

Hosemann and Senate leaders said that despite changes that reduce the amount the state has to add to fully fund MAEP, all schools will receive more money next year. They increased the minimum percentage more affluent districts have to pay into the formula from 27% to 29.5% — but said most districts are already paying more than the minimums in the formula require. They also changed the way inflation is calculated – using a 20-year average instead of current inflation rates – and reduced the amount of costs subject to inflation.

“By spreading it out over that period of time, (the inflation change) gives some certainty in funding to schools,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Briggs Hopson, R-Vicksburg. “It does a lot better job of helping (schools) understand about where they’re going to be.” 

Senate Education Committee Chairman Dennis DeBar, R-Leaksville, said under the current formula, it would take an additional $261 million above last year’s allocation to fully fund MAEP. Under the new version, the additional $181 million that the Senate Appropriations Committee approved will get the program to full funding. The total appropriation for MAEP with the changes would be $2.8 billion. 

Hosemann denied the idea that the move to fully fund MAEP is coming because it is an election year, emphasizing that this change is possible because the Legislature has been “running this state like a business.” 

Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, one of the original authors of the MAEP formula, was involved in the process of making these changes and said Monday evening that he was satisfied with them. 

“For years, we’ve talked about ‘We want to fully fund MAEP, we all know it’s flawed, let’s make the changes,’” DeBar said. “So, we’re finally putting our money where our mouth is.” 

DeBar also said he has spoken to House leadership about this proposal and they were receptive to the changes. 

But on Monday evening, House Education Committee Chair Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach, said he had not been contacted by the Senate.

“Something of this magnitude should have been brought forward earlier for proper vetting,” Bennett said. “Nevertheless, we’ll review the proposal and run the numbers when the amendment is available publicly.”

Nancy Loome, executive director of the public education advocacy group the Parents’ Campaign, said it was “very good news” that the Senate Appropriations Committee had passed a bill fully funding MAEP, and that they have expressed a commitment to do so in the future. Loome also said she approved of the changes to the funding formula.

“Importantly, the Senate plan leaves intact the formula for the base student cost, which is the primary driver of public school funding,” said Loome.

To see how the changes would affect your school district, search the chart below:

The “MAEP FY 23” column does not include last year’s teacher pay raise, while the “MAEP FY 24” column does because the pay raise will be administered differently this year. The change in total dollars from the state for each district will be different than the “Change in MAEP allocation” column because of this.

Clarification 3/9/23: This story has been updated to note the chart includes columns that show how much the district would receive if the new formula was enacted with the recent teacher pay raise included in the formula, as it was not included in the formula the previous year.

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Julia, a Louisiana native, covers K-12 education. She previously served as an investigative intern with Mississippi Today helping cover the welfare scandal. She is a 2021 graduate of the University of Mississippi, where she studied journalism and public policy and was a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. She has also been published in The New York Times and the Clarion-Ledger.