Education

Lawmakers’ pledge on education funding could preserve $22M for Coast

Some legislators oppose a central recommendation of a new funding formula that seeks to increase local education funding in property rich school districts.
Some legislators oppose a central recommendation of a new funding formula that seeks to increase local education funding in property rich school districts.

A pledge by several lawmakers to not increase the amount of property tax wealthier school districts would be required to contribute for education funding could preserve more than $22 million for Coast districts in the event a new education funding formula is approved.

EdBuild, the firm hired to put together a new education funding formula for Mississippi, recommended offsetting a decrease in state spending with an increase in funding from “property rich” school districts.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday night that some legislators pledged to not support the recommendation, among them Rep. Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach, who is on the House Education Committee.

Increasing local financial input is a key component of EdBuild’s formula, one the firm said was needed to make education funding more equitable across the state.

Under its formula, nine Mississippi school districts would see an increase while six would lose funding. Those six, though, would lose big.

The biggest loser would be the Pascagoula-Gautier School District, where state aid would drop by $14,355,017 a year, or $2,022 per student.

The Biloxi School District would lose $4,060,327 a year, or $688 per student.

Moss Point, Pass Christian, Bay-Waveland and Hancock County school districts would also stand to lose under the formula.

Combined, the six districts would be shorted more than $22 million under EdBuild’s formula.

Neither EdBuild, nor state leaders, have released district-by-district funding gains or losses to compare with the AP’s analysis, something Coast superintendents say is unfortunate.

“For me, I need certainty of budget,” Pass Christian School District Superintendent Carla Evers said. “It needs to be predictable.”

“We need a reliable, set amount,” Bonita Coleman -Potter, the superintendent of the Ocean Springs School District said. “We need something we can prepare for and work with when we look at this new formula.”

AP calculations of funding increases or decreases is dependent on the full funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, which has only occurred twice in 20 years.

Legislators underfunded MAEP by $172 million (more than $22 million along the Coast) in 2015-16, according to figures compiled by the state Department of Education.

Justin Vicory: 228-896-2326, @justinvicory

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