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State Auditor Says MAEP Cannot Be ‘Verified’

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 29 Jan 2013 06:08pm | comments
Stacey Pickering

The funding formula for Mississippi's K-12 education spending cannot be verified for accuracy according to the state auditor. MPB’s Jeffrey Hess reports the auditor claims that critical parts of the formula cannot be checked.

State Auditor Stacey Pickering says several parts of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, the state K-12 spending formula, vary across the state or cannot be check at all.

Therefore, Pickering says he cannot reliably test if the formula is accurate or if the state is sending education dollars where it is most need.

"You are looking at millions and millions of dollars. The biggest issue is the fact that we have data that goes into this multi-million dollar formula that is inaccurate. Now ultimately will it save the tax payers money or will it highlight that there are more needs out there that we have not been made aware of? That's really what this boils down to when it comes to accountability," Pickering said.

For example, there is no uniform method for counting how many students attend a Mississippi school, or gifted program and no way at all for the state to determine if schools are accurately reporting the number of children on free and reduced lunch.

Pickering strongly took issue with the program repeatedly saying that he cannot honestly certify the quality of MAEP.

House appropriations chairman Herb Frierson of Poplarville says the concerns are valid, but not does think it would be appropriate to jettison the program.

"Because I am not going to let the pie get any smaller if I can help it. I am on record with that. If MAEP goes down anymore than it has already gone now, it is going to be because of economic conditions not because of any legislative intent to cut it," Frierson said.

But for some on the committee, like Democratic representative Willie Perkins of Greenwood, the hearing sounded like a partisan attack intended to undermine MAEP.

"I think it does. I would not be in support of any proposal that is going to reduce the amount of funding for the MAEP program. I think the real problem is that we have not fully funded MAEP," Perkins said.

The committee chair says he does not expect legislation changing MAEP this year.

The auditor says he is pursuing a more complete audit of the program and its statewide implementation that could be finished by the summer.

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Stacey Pickering


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