Education

EdBuild gathers Ocean Springs input on school funding formula

EdBuild CEO Rebecca Sibilia, center, visited Ocean Springs Upper Elementary School on Tuesday to get a firsthand look at the interaction of teachers and staff. Legislators hired the non-profit organization to reassess the state’s education funding formula.
EdBuild CEO Rebecca Sibilia, center, visited Ocean Springs Upper Elementary School on Tuesday to get a firsthand look at the interaction of teachers and staff. Legislators hired the non-profit organization to reassess the state’s education funding formula. jvicory@sunherald.com

The CEO of the non-profit organization hired to re-evaluate the state’s education funding formula said her group will have “a number of recommendations” for legislators after they finish a tour of state schools.

EdBuild CEO Rebecca Sibilia toured Ocean Springs Upper Elementary School on Tuesday to get a closer look at programs the school offers and how they fit into the current funding formula.

A group of legislators hired EdBuild to assess the state’s education funding formula, which is called the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, or MAEP. MAEP has been around since 1997, but education has been fully funded according to its formula only twice since then.

The K-12 budget is $2.2 billion a year, an amount that legislators have recommended for next year as well.

Sibilia said she’s hopeful EdBuild will have a new funding formula in place by the end of the year for lawmakers to look at when they convene in January.

“We want to talk to as many superintendents, school district officials and stakeholders as we can now,” Sibilia said. “We’re in the middle of the process. We’re not exactly where we want to be right now, but we’ll have a number of recommendations when we’re done.”

Sibilia said EdBuild is looking at several “funding mechanisms,” such as how the state determines school funding based on student attendance and classroom size.

“We’re looking at what types of strings go along with the funding,” she said. “Do they enable or detract from the funding formula?”

While MAEP funding is based on the number of students and teachers in a class, EdBuild prefers a “weighted” funding formula that also takes into account what classroom supplies and materials are needed. The weighted formula would better calculate, for example, how much funding a special education classroom needs over a traditional classroom.

Critics of the contract with EdBuild question why a formula that has never been fully funded should be replaced or re-formulated. Others have questioned the wisdom of hiring a firm with no experience in Mississippi to take on the task.

“We’re young. We’re hungry,” Sibilia said. “I think the most important thing is I’ve served in the role. I understand a little bit more about the challenges that can come along with funding issues.

“Ultimately it’s not about us. I think our work will have to stand by itself.”

Whether or not EdBuild’s formula will result in a higher or lower per pupil cost is up to legislators to decide, Sibilia said.

Residents can give their input on education funding by emailing schoolfinance@ls.ms.gov.

Justin Vicory: 228-896-2326, @justinvicory

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