Legislative Issues Impacting EducationAs we launch into another year of legislative agendas, superintendents across the State are preparing to speak with one voice to all of our Legislators and other statewide elected officials to benefit our State’s children. The superintendents, primarily members of the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents (MASS), are proposing that the legislature focus upon student achievement, with several priority items set forth to achieve this goal.
•Full Funding of MAEP(Mississippi Adequate Education Program) The Superintendents continue to encourage and support legislation that provides full funding of MAEP in accordance with the intent of the original funding formula and with the goal of giving every child equal access to an equitable and adequate education. The failure of the Legislature to fully fund MAEP has created a burden for our District as we constantly struggle to fund our educational processes without raising local taxes. Although the State has been collected more revenue, these increases have not been shared with education, but into the State’s rainy day fund and other accounts.
•Provide State Funding Based on Actual Daily Membership instead of Average Daily Attendance. Assessing funding for districts based on actual enrollment is much more practical than determining by average attendance. For example, a severe flu season would be very detrimental to GSD’s funding because the students’ attendance would be negatively impacted by sickness. As a result, our District’s funding would decrease, services would be affected, and staff positions could be at risk. Even if students are absent, teachers and staff are hired according to the number of students enrolled. Expensed are incurred, regardless of attendance and GSD must pay these expenses, in spite of how many students attend school on any given day.
•Revisit Senate Bill 2396 to Return Control of the Accreditation/ Accountability model the State. The passage of this bill in the 2013 legislature brought on some undesirable consequences. This bill enables the US Department of Education to have control of our Accreditation/Accountability model. The coalition of superintendents believe that these decisions should be made by Mississippi’s Accreditation Commission, State Board of Education, and State leaders.
•Review, Revise, and Reduce the Amount of Testing Required of our Students. The superintendents request that less testing be required by the State to give students more time to learn and teachers more time to teach.
•Provide State Support for Technology Funds are needed to provide technological devices necessary for students to transition to college and career readiness standards.
•Restore the State’s $20 Million Building Fund to Provide Facility Needs for Districts. The State needs to re-establish a definite funding source for building improvements and repairs, in particular for deteriorating roofs, for Districts. Since 2001, a total of $263,800,000 has been diverted by the State from the School Building Fund for other purposes.
•Restore the Stability of the Public Employees Retirement System A strong, sound, retirement system for school employees is essential to maintain stability in the work force of our public schools. We need to keep the staff that is in place and be able to attract new individuals into education. For example, 50% of the education graduates from the University of Mississippi leave our State for the surrounding, better- paying states for employment. We should at least entice these new teachers and keep the teachers that we have, with the promise of a stable retirement system.