School districts raise questions about MAEP allocations from the Department of Education

Published: Apr. 28, 2023 at 7:57 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - It’s budget time for your child’s school district around the state. However, some district leaders are raising a red flag and saying they were caught off guard by the allocation they’re getting from the state.

School districts around the state received their appropriations from the Department of Education Thursday.

“I think some districts were expecting larger allocations,” said Kelly Riley, Mississippi Professional Educators Executive Director.

Kelly Riley heard from superintendents, and so did we. We were made aware that those totals were hundreds of thousands less than what some districts had calculated under the funding formula, MAEP. Some tell us they can’t figure out how the department came up with their numbers. So, we started asking questions.

The Mississippi Department of Education tells me they do a preliminary calculation of MAEP in the fall. They calculated the base student cost to be $7,265. That included the teacher pay raise from last year. But lawmakers chose not to include the raise in the formula. MDE says that’s why they adjusted the base student cost to be $6,759, the amount you see within House Bill 1613.

“So they’re seeing, oh my God, you reduced my funding, and student base costs went down,” described Dr. Felicia Gavin, MDE Chief of Operations. “Why? Because we had to remove the teacher pay raise from the student base cost calculation, but you’re getting it as a separate funding.”

There are now three pots of money: MAEP, the teacher pay raise, and what they’ll get from the extra 100 million approved by lawmakers.

“We’re still waiting on clarification from the Legislative Budget Office on how you want us to calculate that 100 million dollars,” explained Gavin. “So, they don’t have that piece yet in their funding.”

Riley thinks the new structure is the source of confusion.

“As Senator Dennis Barr said, on the Senate floor, when he was presenting the appropriation bill that Friday, the next to last day of the legislative session, he said, you know, we basically have three formulas now,” said Riley.

She also made this note.

“It’s so important that our districts understand the methodology of the allocations so that they have full confidence and so that they can develop their their local district budgets to best meet the needs of our students and our educators,” added Riley.

The Department of Education says it plans to offer office hours next week to answer district questions.

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