Importance of MAEP FundingThe Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP), passed by the Mississippi Legislature in 1997, provides a formula that distributes the necessary educational resources to Mississippi school districts to assist in equalizing the financial inequity among school districts. Whether a child lives in a wealthy community or a poor one, MAEP is designed to provide schools the resources necessary for adequate student achievement and to make sure that a proper portion of taxes goes to fund schools. Every Mississippi child, therefore, regardless of where he/she lives, would be afforded an adequate educational opportunity, as defined by the State Accountability System. Mississippi has only fully funded MAEP twice, and both times were in election years.
A state formula is used to establish adequate current operation funding levels necessary for the programs of each school district to meet a successful level of student performance. The level of performance was established by the State Board of Education using current statistically relevant state assessment data. The MAEP formula produces a base student cost, the amount that is designated to enable each student to receive an adequate education in a Mississippi school. A community’s ad valorem taxes cover up to 27% of educational funding while the State covers the rest. The State’s contribution is essentially the base student cost times the daily attendance. Currently, Mississippi has underfunded our public schools by at least 1.3 billion.
Adequate funding is essential to the process of improving Mississippi’s achievement rankings. Our children need access to a selection of academic offerings, qualified teachers, and reasonable class sizes. Investing in public education is the key to a child’s future economic mobility, family stability, and the State’s long-term economic prosperity. There is a direct correlation between education achievement and economic success.
The Better Schools, Better Jobs group is pushing a ballot initiative, called Initiative 42, to amend the Mississippi Constitution to require that the State require and the Legislature fully fund an “adequate and efficient “ public school system. However, the Legislature has devised an additional amendment to be placed on the ballot, Initiative 42-A, that implies that school funding should be tied to achievement.
When all appropriations of State taxes and fees are considered, K-12 education makes up about 23% of the State budget. When federal funds are included, K-12 makes up only 16.5% of the State budget. Total MAEP underfunding of GSD from 2009-2015 has been over 13 million dollars. For a more affluent county this amount would not be insurmountable, but in Grenada County this lack of funds forces GSD to cut services and staff. However, during this same time period, our schools have seen our standards rise significantly and our administrative duties increase due to mandates by the State Legislature and policy requirements at the state and federal levels. The Legislature has continued to raise the number of administrative and implementation functions required of districts. Accountability standards have increased significantly and students, principals, and teachers are held to these new levels of achievement.
Over 92% of all Mississippi students are enrolled in public education. By investing in public education, we invest in the future of our State. Diverting funding away from our schools puts Mississippi on the wrong path for improvement. We are the forty-fifth state in student educational funding, and at the top in poverty, teen pregnancy, and illiteracy. Mississippi’s students need an equitable funding system that will prepare them to be successful members of society. Investing in our students’ education is the most effective way to increase their productivity and prosperity and the long-term prosperity of Mississippi.