The Mississippi Department of Education has decided to distribute the $100 million in additional funding allocated to school districts this year, despite previously saying it was unable to do so because of a lack of clarity from the Legislature.
After a push last session to fully fund public schools, school districts ultimately received $100 million outside of the regular school funding formula to be distributed by student enrollment. But in the months since the Legislature adjourned, confusion ensued regarding exactly how to calculate enrollment, with the House and Senate offering different proposals.
On June 30, his last day as interim state superintendent, Mike Kent announced to local school superintendents in an email that the department would proceed with distributing the money based on his interpretation of the funding bill. Kent said the department did this so districts would not experience a delay in receiving the funding.
The department later clarified that Kent’s interpretation of the law was using months 1-9 of the school year to calculate enrollment, which most closely matches the Senate proposal.
The text of the law says the money is to be distributed based on “average daily enrollment or the total number of students enrolled for each day in each public school district or charter school divided by the total number of school days.”
Kent also said in his email that the state department will continue to work with the Legislature “to clarify the intent of the language in the appropriations bill,” and will make necessary changes later if the Legislature directs it to do so.
Kent previously told Mississippi Today that the difference between the proposals was “negligible” but that the department could not “arbitrarily” make a decision as “there would be people that would have a problem with it.”