The Winter Institute Addresses Mississippi’s Inadequate Education Funding
The Mississippi Adequate Education Program, the formula that determines the amount of funding needed to operate schools at a “C” level, has been shortchanged by more than $1.3 billion over the past five years. The legislature’s FY 2015 appropriation will underfund MAEP by an additional $257 million.
Against that backdrop, Rethink Mississippi, the Advocacy pillar of the Winter Institute, worked with Millsaps College to organize a panel on April 25 discussing the funding needs of Mississippi’s public schools. The event was part of Millsaps’ Elise and William Winter Speaker Series, which sponsors public forums about critical policy issues in the state.
Panelists included State Representative Cecil Brown (D-Jackson), former chairman of the House Education Committee; Nancy Loome, Director of the Parents’ Campaign; Kim Merchant, Education Law Director at the Mississippi Center for Justice and member of the Greenville school board; Todd Ivey, Chief Operating Officer at the Mississippi Department of Education; and Ravi Gupta, Executive Director of RePublic Schools, a charter school operator that has applied to open a school in Jackson.
Their discussion centered around two main questions:
1) Does Mississippi spend enough on public schools?
2) How can Mississippi’s schools budget more effectively?
Nearly all of the panelists supported more funding, but they differed on the extent to which structural reforms and alternative models, such as charter schools, should accompany new spending. Equitable distributions for high-poverty districts, merit pay for teachers, and special needs vouchers were all discussed. Despite differences in their perspectives, the panelists expressed hope that Mississippi could avoid much of the tension that has accompanied education reform discussions in many other states.
The Winter Institute and Rethink Mississippi are committed to improving the quality of public education for all children in Mississippi. Through our #moveMSup initiative, we will work with students, teachers, and community members to support the needs of local schools and advocate for full and equitable funding from the state legislature.