Editorials

There’s no reason to rush education overhaul

Rebecca Sibilia, CEO of EdBuild, a New Jersey nonprofit hired by legislative committees to make recommendations on policies of Mississippi’s education-funding formula, and her associates listen to a speaker during a public comment forum at the Capitol in Jackson in November. Back then, she’d planned to have her report done by November.
Rebecca Sibilia, CEO of EdBuild, a New Jersey nonprofit hired by legislative committees to make recommendations on policies of Mississippi’s education-funding formula, and her associates listen to a speaker during a public comment forum at the Capitol in Jackson in November. Back then, she’d planned to have her report done by November. AP File

All we know about the plans to revamp Mississippi’s school-funding formula is we don’t know enough to proceed.

So far, we have the MAEP formula and a report from EdBuild, the New Jersey firm hired by legislative leadership to advise on the school-funding formula.

And the Legislature is more than a third of the way through its 2017 session.

It is clear this process has slipped behind schedule. EdBuild, for example, was supposed to have its report in the hands of lawmakers by the end of 2016. It didn’t deliver until the 2017 session had begun.

We urge lawmakers to resist the urge to accelerate to try to catch up. This is not a problem that arose overnight. The MAEP is 20 years old and rarely has been fully funded. It is hard to fathom what changed about the state’s circumstances this year that would require immediate action.

The stakes are high.

Pascagoula-Gautier School District Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich told the Sun Herald his district has been able to surpass the stated goals of state leadership — even without a fully funded MAEP — through good stewardship of its revenue. The EdBuild plan, he said, could jeopardize those gains.

The Associated Press calculated Pascagoula-Gautier would lose $14,355,017 in state funding each year and Biloxi would lose almost $4.1 million. Those districts already believe they’ve been shortchanged over the years by the Legislature’s failure to fully fund the MAEP.

The problem is we don’t know if any of those numbers will hold up because we haven’t seen a bill that outlines how either the House or Senate plans to apply the EdBuild report.

We hope the legislative leadership is upfront about its proposal, and exactly what goals it believes that proposal will achieve. And we hope its colleagues are given time to read, study and thoroughly vet the bill.

If not, we would rather the overhaul of education funding wait for a special session or, given the cost of special sessions, wait until the 2018 session.

This is not an emergency.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.

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