By Emma Crawford Kent
TUPELO – Public education advocates are expected to gather this morning at the Mississippi Capitol to voice concerns over a potential rewrite of the state’s school funding formula.
Among them will be at least two familiar faces from the Tupelo area.
Former Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr. will speak at the event and Sen. Chad McMahan, R-Guntown, is expected to attend in support.
“I represent four great public school systems, and I want to be there to support the folks who are supporting me,” McMahan said.
The rally, organized by advocacy group Mississippi Education Funding, takes place today in the second-floor rotunda of the Capitol building at 10:30 a.m.
Speakers will begin at 11 a.m., and the event is expected to conclude around 11:30 a.m.
The focus of the rally is to ask that broad public input be sought on any rewrite of the state’s current public education funding formula, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.
Reed will be one of several speakers at the rally among parents, students and others.
Reed said he will speak about the economic impact of having a strong public education system.
The rally is a way to remind legislators that public schools are important, Reed said, and as a longtime advocate for public schools he wanted to be involved.
“I think those of us who understand how important the public schools are to the future of the state need to be relentless in our support of them,” Reed said.
Under a funding plan proposed by nonprofit consulting group EdBuild in January, many districts would lose state funding. The Tupelo Public School District would lose about $4 million in state funding per year.
Legislative leadership was unable to create a bill from the EdBuild plan to be voted on within the deadlines for the 2017 regular session. Currently, they are working on developing a plan to be considered during a special session.
Reed described the potential cut to TPSD funding as “an enormous hit,” and said he would like to see more time spent on a rewrite and more input from educators and the public throughout the process.
Some districts would lose even more funding than TPSD under the EdBuild plan, were the legislature to use it.
“I’m hoping that when and if they do pass something other than MAEP that it’s positive and progressive and doesn’t have consequences for educating children,” Reed said.
McMahan said until he sees proposed legislation, he can’t say if he would support an MAEP rewrite.
“Some of the EdBuild recommendations would be fine for schools and some would be detrimental, but before I take a vote on education I always call home, and I speak with all four of the school superintendents that I represent, I call CDF and the businesses I represent and I also reach out to teachers and parents and students,” McMahan said. “I do not vote before calling home to get the will of the people.”