School funding formula could be changed - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

School funding formula could be changed

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

In schools across the state, the number of students counted as present in a classroom is a big part of the decision on how much money will flow into the school district. Now, legislation at the state capitol could soon change what counts as attendance.

The charge to lawmakers was lead by State Auditor Stacey Pickering last month. Currently there's no set policy to determine what counts as a student being present for the entire day. Because of that, Pickering said it creates careless attendance records, which undermines the funding formula known as MAEP.

"When we study the successful states that's a score high on standardized tests that have high graduation rates those states have a standardized definition of average daily attendance," said Pickering.

Under a house bill, that's exactly what would happen. To be counted as present, a student must be in attendance for at least two thirds of the school day. Under a separate house bill, a change would also be made to how often the funding formula is evaluated. Now, MAEP is reviewed every four years, but legislation would change that to every year.

"If you do it annually, we're not sure if that's going to help or hurt our schools," said Kevin Gilbert, president of the Mississippi Association of Educators.

Gilbert says the changes could add to the existing problem of consistent under-funding.

"What we don't want to happen when it comes to that ADA is that students and schools are penalized for excused absences," said Gilbert.

With MAEP funding yet to be decided, Gilbert says lawmakers are unlikely to give the full payout, but rather level funding, which would be the same as the current under-funded year. Whatever happens, Gilbert says consideration needs to be weighed.

"Whatever we do around funding, it needs to be a sincere effort to make sure that our schools get the necessary resources they need to help our students be competitive," said Gilbert.

Both bills have passed the house, where they started, and as of late last week passed the senate with amendments. If the house agrees to the changes, the bills will be sent to the governor.

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