Instead of outside consultants being hired to look at the formula that provides the state’s share of funds for local school districts, the Department of Education staff is looking at “different scenarios” that would occur if changes are made to the MAEP.
During the session, House Appropriations Chairman Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, said legislation was passed allowing the Department of Education to hire Augenblick, Palaich and Associates, the Colorado-based consultants that helped the state develop the formula to study whether possible changes are needed to MAEP.
The Department of Education was given spending authority of $500,000 to hire the consultants, though legislators said they did not anticipate the total amount being spent.
Now, Frierson said, no amount of money will be spent on the study. He said that money might be directed during the 2013 session to other needs in the Department of Education.
A smaller version of the study is being done in-house by the Department of Education. Pete Smith, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, said the agency is just “responding to some questions from the Legislature” regarding the Adequate Education Program.
“We just got some questions about different scenarios to see what they look like,” Frierson said. “We’re trying to learn about it. We’re not trying to rewrite it.”
The Adequate Education Program was adopted in 1997 and fully enacted in 2002. But since then, it has been fully funded only twice because of lack of state funds.
The formula is developed by calculating the costs per student of operating districts deemed to be efficient. The calculations include costs for classroom instruction, administrative functions, utilities and other items, such as maintenance. Each school is supposed to receive that calculation – about $5,000 – for each student.
But the formula requires each district to contribute 28 mills, or 27 percent, of the total costs – whichever is less. A mill is a tax rate equal to $1 per $1,000 of assessed value of taxable property.
Districts with less property to tax will get more state funds.
For the current school year, the Adequate Education Program, funded at $2.035 billion, is about $260 million short of full funding.
Frierson said some of the items that the state Department of Education might look at is increasing the required local contribution or further defining what is deemed to be an efficient school district that would be used in calculating the amount of money to direct to the schools. Another item that might be considered would be to calculate the costs each year.