By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – The state House passed legislation Tuesday that could affect the amount of money generated for local school districts by the Mississippi Adequate Education program.
One bill, which passed 115-1, would require a student to be in school 63 percent of the “instructional school day” to be counted for the district’s average daily attendance. Another proposal would require the Adequate Education Program, which is the funding formula used to determine the amount of state money going to local school districts, to be recalculated every year instead of every four years by the state Board of Education.
House Appropriations Chair Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, stressed the intent of the legislation is not to provide less state funding for local school districts.
Legislative leaders said their goal is to keep education funding level this session, which would be more than $200 million less than full funding under the MAEP formula. They said the rebound in state tax collections has not been strong enough to fully fund the program.
“We want to maintain 89 percent” of full funding, Frierson said. “If it gets much below that … it gets ugly real fast. You are talking about it impacting warm bodies and lots of them.”
State Auditor Stacey Pickering had complained to legislators that school districts are not using a uniform definition of average daily attendance. He said districts where some students might attend for only a brief portion of the day are getting the same funds as those where students stayed all day.
“We just want to make ADA uniform across the state,” Frierson said.
The other legislation changing when the Adequate Education Program funding formula is recalculated passed 81-35. Some expressed concern that the recalculation would result in less funds being generated for local schools.
The formula works by the state Board of Education identifying “adequate,” or successful, districts and determining how much they spend for school operations – the instructional, administrative, maintenance and ancillary costs.
Based on the expenditures in those districts, an average cost per student is developed. Local school districts statewide are supposed to receive that average cost per student multiplied by their average daily attendance.
Under current law, the formula is supposed to recalculated for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014.
Because districts have been dramatically underfunded during the recent economic slowdown, when the formula is recalculated it will generate about $170 million less for the local school districts.
Frierson said that will happen whenever the formula is recalculated.
He said his goal is to recalculate the formula for the new fiscal year, starting July 1, to see if the amount going to instruction will be reduced more than the amount going to administration. He said if that is the case, the formula might need to be “tweaked” to increase the amount of education funding going to instruction.