By looking back to the original intent of MAEP, we find that in 2002-03 the proposed base funding amount was $3,804. That amount is not far from the contemplated wholesale reform amount of base costs of $4,800 under HB 957. Education reform in Mississippi is going backwards. Education funding has not progressed to meet the needs of all public-school students. Funding proposed in 2018 does not advance Mississippi to a competitive level of student achievement, but instead promotes inequity; attempting to move towards school choice instead of fixing the clear disparities caused by regressive funding over the span of 2002-2018.
To combat the punitive reforms proposed, the answers may be hidden in plain sight within MAEP. Robust thought and analysis was put into the formulation of MAEP by the Mississippi Department of Education by and many other education stakeholders. What becomes apparent when reflecting on their analysis is the following: a. MAEP needed full funding to address areas of weakness due to the high disparity between districts with money and poor districts; and b. A low base amount contemplated the provision of adequate resources, i.e., money from the state to offset disparity between districts. The same problems that exist today are largely the same as 2002; a failure to fully fund MAEP increases inequity, which leads to inadequate education outcomes statewide.
To address those well documented issues, any policy reforms should be towards strengthening the following parts of MAEP, instead of focusing on a punitive rewrite in 2018:
- Changing the quality indicators in the base cost calculation is a critical update to the MAEP. Such an update will help Mississippi convert its first-generation definition of adequacy, which was driven largely by “input” resources and the opinions of informed professionals, into one that reflects the performance of students, an “outcome” driven approach consistent with current state and federal expectations about student achievement.
- School districts should receive the resources necessary to help the typical student, one with no special needs, meet state standards.
- Instead of working outside of the MAEP formula, any solutions should be focused on moving the state money inside MAEP to seek improvement of increased base costs, increased percentages of funding to balance disparity of region.
- If funding is geared towards the MAEP formula, with a retooling geared towards disparity, then the equity issues would be addressed, and the punitive reform would be removed.
To ensure the conversation surrounding equity remains at the forefront of any proposed reforms, we must look back to the solid analysis that laid the foundation for MAEP. To do so, we have found the following resources extremely helpful in informing our understanding of MAEP. These resources have also informed our staunch push away from HB 957, towards equity in any solution that is formulated going forward.
Those resources are as follows:
- “Mississippi Department of Education Proposal for W.K. Kellogg Foundation”
- Augenblick, Palaich and Associates, Inc., Memorandum May 29, 2004, “An update of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program and Creation of Adjustments for Special Student Needs”
- Augenblick, Palaich and Associates, Inc., Presentation to the Senate Education Committee, September 2004 “Updating MAEP”
- Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP), “An Overview of How the Formula is Calculated,” June 23-25, 2015, MDE Summer Data Conference
Taken together, each reference points towards the needs of students being paramount, in any formulaic consideration. To meet student needs and positively impact public education going forward, it is imperative that we all take time to understand why equity is the most important aspect of any policy changes contemplated. Without equity, the policy argument is more about protecting state budgets and less about students; even less about substantive reform to public education.