Mississippi Communities Pushing Hard to Protect School Funding

Last Updated: February 24, 2011

This article appeared in the February 2011 Rural Policy Matters.

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Public education supporters in Mississippi are celebrating a small positive development in the state legislature this month as the House of Representatives approved a school funding plan that provides “level” funding to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP).

MAEP is the state’s primary mechanism for providing equalized funding for school districts. Although the House bill does not cut MAEP funding, it does not fully fund it either. The statewide shortfall is estimated at over $200 million.

Passed in the mid-1990’s, MAEP was designed to bring lower performing school districts up to an expenditure level of “adequately” performing school districts. But it has only been fully funded once. Under MAEP, additional state aid is provided to school districts based on the number of students in each district that are designated as at-risk or who receive services through special education, vocational education, and gifted education. MAEP also addresses the transportation circumstances within a school district.

Education advocates across the state strongly support full funding of MAEP as the best method for supporting struggling districts with challenging student populations, especially in rural areas.

Still at issue in MAEP funding, however, is $65 million provided for Mississippi schools through the Federal Education Jobs funding approved last year. Governor Haley Barbour has called on legislators to cut funding to MAEP by $65 million and to balance the budget with the federal dollars. Several legislators and school officials claim that the funds go directly to school districts and are not allocated to supplant states’ education commitments.

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Read more from the February 2011 Rural Policy Matters.