Children-at-Risk

Children-at-Risk

In a September 2, 2007 article in the Jackson, MS Clarion Ledger, it was noted:

  • 2007 Census figures released in August 2007 showed a slight decline in the national poverty rate.
  • In Mississippi, however, the rate is up from 19.9 percent in 1999 to the current 21.1 percent.
  • The Mississippi Center for Economic Policy released a report in April 2007 that showed that nearly 130,000, or 39 percent, of Mississippi’s working families are low-income. The report also said 35 percent of the state’s jobs are low-wage occupations.

Under Mississippi law children at-risk are defined for the purposes of education funding as any child enrolled in school who is eligible for free lunch under US Department of Agriculture regulations.

Southern Echo takes the position that children are “at-risk” in a great many different ways than just eligibility for free lunch and, therefore, uses a much broader definition.  The data below is based on Mississippi’s narrow definition of eligibility for free lunch under USDA regulations.

  • Sixty-five percent (65%) of Mississippi students enrolled in 2006 – 293,220 of 503,018 – qualified as children at-risk.  More than 6 of every 10 students in the state qualify as being at-risk
  • 41% of Mississippi school districts (63 districts) have enrolled 70% or more children at-risk.
  • 56% of Mississippi school districts (85 districts) have enrolled 60% or more children at-risk.
  • 71% of Mississippi school districts (108 districts) have enrolled 50% or more children at-risk.
  • 89.5% of Mississippi school districts (136 districts) have enrolled 40% or more children at-risk.
  • 96.7% of Mississippi school districts (147 districts) have enrolled 30% or more children at-risk.

In the school district with the fewest children at risk, 22.78% of the students enrolled, or at least ONE in every FIVE students, is a child at-risk.

When Mississippi re-evaluated the Mississippi Adequate Education Program formula in 2005 the state’s expert consultants concluded the MAEP formula should provide an enhancement of 114% above base student cost to meet the real need of children at-risk.  The existing formula provides an enhancement of only 5% above base student cost for children at-risk.  [“Base student cost” is the basic amount the state appropriates for toward the education of every student.  Each school district receives a sum that is equal to the base student cost multiplied by the number of students determined by the average daily attendance (ADA).]

  • The base student cost in the MS Adequate Education Program formula for fiscal year 2008 (which runs from 7-1-07 to 6-30-08) is $4,574.00.
  • The current enhancement for students at–risk in the MAEP formula is 5 %.

5 % of $4,574 = $228.70. This means that under the MAEP formula local school districts receive from the State of Mississippi only $228.70 for each student that qualifies as a student at-risk.  This does not begin to meet the need!

  • In 2005 the Augenblick study commissioned by the Mississippi Legislature determined that in order to meet the education needs of students at-risk in Mississippi the enhancement above base student cost per student ought to be 114 %.

114 % of $4,574 = $5,214.36. Therefore, each school district ought to receive $5,214.36 above base student cost to meet the actual needs of each student at-risk.

COMPARE the difference between what is needed and what we do:

What we need to do What we actually do

  • $4,574      – base student cost                     $4,574.00 – base student cost

+ $5,214.36 – 114 % enhancement            + $   228.70 – 5 % enhancement

$9,788.36                                                   $4,802.70

  • NOTE:  It actually cost Rankin County School District $10,393.00, according in the 2006-2007 school year to educate students at-risk.  “Unleashing Possibilities for All Students”, page 7, Report to the MS Legislative Task Force on Children At-Risk, August 17, 2007, by Rankin County School Superintendent Lynn Weathersby.  In Rankin County, therefore, the cost to educate each at-risk student was $5,819 above base student cost, which is 122 % above base student cost.
  • THEREFORE, the State is under-funding the needs of each student at-risk by approximately $4,985.66 under the Augenblick projected analysis, and by $5,590.30 under the Rankin County School District actual experience!

When the state fails to fully fund the needs of children at-risk it is, as a matter of policy, failing to provide to these children the education and support services which they need to succeed in school.  This is a prescription that will contribute to the failure of students to graduate, or to graduate on time, or if they graduate, to be college-ready.