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Mississippi Senators Approve Changes To MAEP

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 13 Mar 2013 07:02pm | comments

Mississippi lawmakers are taking new steps to change how the state decides how much to spend on K-12 education. The state senate has approved two changes to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.

MAEP, the chronically under-funded education spending formula, has been the target of potential changes all session.

One of the changes approved by the Senate yesterday would create a uniform formula for calculating school attendance.

Senate Education Committee chairman Gray Tollison of Oxford says students would have to be in class for two-thirds of a day in order to count as in attendance.

"There is a direct correlation between absenteeism, chronically absent students and poor academic performance. I mean it is right on. If you are not going to school you are not learning," Tollison said.

How many students a school has in class every day is a critical component in determining how much money each school gets according to the MAEP formula.

The second measure would recalculate the formula every year rather than every four years.

Because the formula factors previous year's spending, lawmakers say a recalculation this year could have lowered the funding request by as much as $100 million.

Opponents of the changes like Senator David Blount of Jackson says they are more focused on lowering spending rather than on improving education.

"And this is somehow busting the state budget. And the whole thing is designed to be so complicated that you can't understand it. And it is unreliable. And you are trying to diminish support and diminish confidence in the formula so you can undermine support for it. Then you are not approaching this process, I think, in the way you ought to approach it," Blount said.

The formula has only been fully funded a couple times since its inception in 1997.

The bills appear to be headed toward a compromise version between the House and the Senate.

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