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Reynolds: I Never Supported Passing A Measure And Fixing It After It Becomes Law


Public education was the primary topic of House activity last week with a four-hour floor debate over a bill that proposes a new funding formula for our public schools. Rather than determining to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program for only the third time in 20 years, we were instead debating a newly proposed formula on Wednesday. 

The new formula followed the idea of providing schools state money based on a per student basis, with each student bringing $4,800 to the school. Additional funds would be added per student depending on certain criteria, such as the system’s poverty rate, population density and others. The funding structure was first proposed by consulting company EDBuild last year, but the per-pupil appropriation was less in House Bill 957.

The measure, a 354-page bill, was dropped on the previous Thursday, and members were first briefed on it Monday in a joint hearing of the Appropriation and Education committees. During that hearing, the Education chair advised that there were some issues with the bill that could be corrected after it was passed.

I’ve never supported passing a measure and fixing it after it becomes law.

To his credit, the Chair offered the first two of 19 total amendments to the bill when it reached the House floor on Wednesday. His amendments moved the date when the first review panels would be allowed to study the bill from 2023 to 2018 and to straighten out language to make sure that funds for community college dual enrollment programs would be accurately appropriated. Both of those needed amendments passed.

 

The remainding 17 amendments were defeated largely along partisan lines. These amendments offered everything from increasing the student base allotment amount to doing away with state exit tests in favor of the ACT, and even making sure that the bulk of any appropriations would go to the classrooms rather than to administration costs. 

The bill passed 66-54. I voted against it. The education of our young people should not be a partisan issue. As William Winter said during the time of The Education Reform Act passage “The road to prosperity starts at the schoolhouse door.”

 Our children deserve a quality education; a strong public education system ensures a strong economy; and the entire state benefits.

    

Whenever an industry or business is looking for a place to locate, they ask about two things: the public school system and transportation system. The future of Mississippi depends upon our ability to make sure that both of these items are priorities of state government.

 

House Bill 957’s proponents were providing information to local superintendents that purported to show the differences in appropriations that their school systems could expect if the proposed new formula became law. For those in this House district, returns were mixed. Some districts fared better than others. However, after the dust settled in the House chamber, we were provided with another comparison that was quite troubling. It compared the difference between the full funding of MAEP during this school year to what the proposed rewrite would provide in 2025-2026, the final year of its implementation. Nearly all of our districts were shown to have lost appropriations under that scenario.

 

One example of difference between funding under the currently existing MAE program and under the new system proposed by House leadership, which I opposed, could be demonstrated in the funding for the Water Valley School system. 

The actual funding for the school system from the state for Fiscal Year 2018 is $5,417,477. Under the new formula, Water Valley would not lose money as would a number of other districts, but the growth of school funding to the district would by Fiscal Year 2026 only be to the sum of $5,492,109. 

This amount is $445,814 less than what the school district would have received each year had the MAEP formula been retained and been properly funded. Of course no funding formula will work if it is not funded. It is important that education and transportation and other critical needs of the state be met and be met in a timely and consistent fashion if the state is to properly progress. 

 

Please call if I can be of any assistance. My email address is thomasureynolds@bellsouth.net and my mailing address is 1720 North Main St., Water Valley, MS, 38965. My office number is 662-647-3203.

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