The 2018 MS Legislative Session has begun and we are confronted with the remnants of last year’s session. Specifically, we are moving into 2018 with the uneasy feeling that MAEP has remained on the table along with: alternative funding proposals, school choice, and accountability grades for school districts. Below, are our views on the 2017 legislative session to assist in focusing the work needed to avoid dire outcomes from the 2018 legislative session.
In 2017, considerable capital was expended pushing forward the hazy outline for EdBuild; the proposed answer to education funding in Mississippi. The product was inconclusive, at best, and a sober reminder of what could happen if we do not hold the line in making specific demands on what the educational funding formula should entail. Here you can find our EdBuild first impressions. The outcome was to holdover the conversation to the 2018 session. We should not let our guards down. Here are a few key considerations related to the failed EdBuild trial bubble:
- EdBuild did not provide any concrete appropriations numbers, because that was never the intent;
- EdBuild did provide a lens for viewing how school choice becomes the preferred alternative to fully and adequately fund education in Mississippi;
- Proponents of EdBuild focused a great amount of time laying out the mechanism for a formula that would hurt districts with smaller tax bases, thus creating a continued divide of resources and renewed focus on school district grading mechanics;
- The entire EdBuild process was a success if we do not unify around a strong set of principles for what is needed in the next iteration of funding. The most important principles heading into the session should be:
- messaging around equity;
- development of a formula that clearly addresses students needs;
- solidify stakeholders understanding of school choice and accountability ratings and how these are being used wedge issues to divert attention away from the importance of funding public education in Mississippi.
Messaging is the most effective asset we have going forward. As you can see from the considerations above, at best the message has been unclear, but that is by design. If we fall into the trap of formulating unclear messages to stakeholders around funding formulas, we will farther the goals of those that want to put at-risk parties to sleep, thus causing them to lose interest, resulting in lack of understanding, thus reducing their participation in battles to come.
Our message should focus on equity in education funding. Each of us bring a unique audience to this process of ensuring that any funding formula is equitable to our stakeholders and it is paramount for broad participation. This is literally “all hands-on-deck” and shaping of the equity message and driving it home must happen through organizing, grassroots efforts, and strategic partnerships. Otherwise we are going to get swept into the majority mood of formulaic chatter and the push for choice. If that happens there will be a move to divert funds towards school choice and away from any equity funding for all schools in the State of Mississippi.
We are including our recap of last session and a forecast for the 2018 session and an intro to the larger conversation around accountability and how we can assist in shaping the narrative and equip communities with the necessary tools to avoid the move towards consolidation/takeover. As we prepare for the 2018 legislative session and its implications on education issues, we hope this email will serve as an urgent call to action. If you have any questions, please let us know as we all work together for a better education for all Mississippi children, regardless of race, gender, or economic status.
Office Number: (601) 982-6400
Cell Number: (601) 214-3601