JACKSON — Mississippi’s public schools need an additional $312 million from lawmakers next year to fully fund the formula that determines how much money education is supposed to get, state education leaders said Wednesday.
The state Board of Education approved a 2016 budget request seeking $370 million over the $2.49 billion lawmakers allotted in the budget that began July 1. That includes money for programs beyond the Mississippi Adequate Education Program funding formula.
The formula is calculated by looking at average spending in typical districts, computing “adequate” amounts for instruction, administration, transportation and other expenses. Wednesday’s calculation is an early estimate that will be revised later. But it’s made now because agencies are preparing 2016 budget requests ahead of September hearings.
The Board of Education is legally required to seek full funding of MAEP, and legislators are supposed to be legally bound to comply. Lawmakers allotted $95 million more to schools this year, mostly because of pay raises.
But they put $257 million less than the full amount into the formula this year, bringing a gap over six years to $1.5 billion.
Lawmakers filled state reserve accounts for the 2015 budget year, and if state tax revenues continue to increase strongly, there could be more than $200 million in new money to spend. But Todd Ivey, who manages the formula calculation for the Department of Education, said he doubts lawmakers will fill the gap.
“I’m not very confident that we’ll get it and that’s not a knock on the Legislature,” Ivey said. “That’s a significant amount of money and we understand that.”
Supporters of full funding are currently collecting signatures intending to put a state constitutional amendment on the ballot to reinforce the legal funding requirement.
“Parents are fed up with politicians who make campaign promises to provide adequate school funding and then drop that commitment like a hot potato the minute they are sworn into office,” Nancy Loome, executive director of the Parents Campaign wrote to supporters Tuesday.
More money will be needed for the second year of the planned pay raise, driving most of the projected increase in the formula. Figures call for $5,353.06 per student in 2016, compared to the $5,140.07 before the two-year pay raise began.
The Board of Education wants lawmakers to restore $17.7 million in teacher supply funds and $20 million in construction aid that have been diverted. Other proposals include $6 million more for 4-year-old prekindergarten classes, $5 million for a new data-collection system, $3 million to aid school technology and $2 million more for state tests.