HB 957 is a collection of major acts of destruction toward public education. While divided into subsections, they point to the overarching theme of a scheme to systematically dismantle public education in Mississippi. Such acts, are consistent throughout HB 957 and work in concert to cheapen the value proposition of public education and strengthen the case silently for a rise in public charter schools.
HB 957 is proposing a starting base of per student funding at $4,800, which falls short of MAEP’s $5,358 (it should be noted that current funding is only done at $4,980 because MAEP is not fully funded).
Some actual figures from the current school year in metro area school districts paint an even starker portrait; the districts start with the rough figure of $4,980 and then once the figure has been worked through the district formula it becomes an actual base amount of approximately $3,715.
HB 957 dismisses the outcry of communities that each have different funding needs and thus sets the stage for funding fights across the special interest groups. Such an approach provides an unhealthy method of securing quality education because it presupposes that every district is either the same (which we know they are not) or it is a move to place school choice as the growing alternative to what public education will become under this formula.
HB 957 ignores proven national and Mississippi studies which demonstrate that funds placed into early childhood education provide substantial positive impact on student achievement.
HB 957 is designed for a seven-year phase in, the impact will last much longer than seven years; potentially decades, because the current funding model does not receive full funding and HB 957 proposes to begin lower than MAEP. Do not be fooled when they present numbers that cover the entire 7 year period and try to offer it as more money.
We must alert all elected representatives, stakeholders, parents, and friends of public education that HB 957 presents what will be a steep decline in public education and set us back as a State, seeking equity in funding and fairness for public education for decades to come. Here are a few of the most egregious pain points contained in HB 957:
– Zero Dollars for Pre-K;
-Imbalance of Dollars between elementary and high school (new lower base of $4,800 for elementary and $6,240 for high school);
-Use of Census Data which would decrease actual poverty numbers under proposed application (USDA free lunch program is annual and a much more effective measure of poverty);
– Lowered base student amount to $4,800 per student (Below MAEP levels, and we now know that the actual base will be lower when applied through any formula, i.e., effective base in Jackson area schools $3,715);
-Inequitable tax base formula benefitting the top districts and punishing the poorer districts (Roughly $17.8 secured back to Pascagoula alone; and $107 million total to the high property valuation districts);
-Pitting of special interest groups representing various student groups, i.e., special needs versus gifted versus college track versus English language learners (the beginning of scholarships, vouchers, choice, because this is a dream battle between groups);
-Shifting of working programs back to districts, which are already cash strapped, i.e. dual enrollment – result, loss of program and loss of ability to use said programs existence in accountability scoring (another area that opens districts to the questions of funneling money towards charter schools);
-Random, punitive audits (If (7%) lower than district’s reported enrollment, MDE must use a student number for the next succeeding fiscal year which equals the average number found by the examiners less an amount that is the same percentage as the difference in the average of the examiner’s actual findings and the school district’s reported enrollment);
-Reintroduction of the Fiscal Transparency Act as an unfunded mandate (Districts will need major infrastructure upgrades in accounting software because their systems are much more advanced than MDE to report out financial data);
-7-year phase in up or down; and
-Same overall flaws as EdBuild, but with worse methods of implementation
The Chairman is proposing “pass now, work out later.” We cannot allow this approach to come near our children’s future.
To Ensure Equity Education Funding in Mississippi, we need everyone to demand justice:
Students of public schools in MS should let their voices be heard;
Parents of students in public schools in MS should let their voices be heard;
School Administrators and Teachers that teach in public schools in MS should let their voices be heard;
Communities should let their voices be heard; and
ALL public education stakeholders should let their voices be heard.
One loud voice saying NO to HB 957 or anything that takes the funding away from public education in Mississippi. Education underfunding, creates dead futures or no future at all!