The state's funding of kindergarten through 12th grade education across Mississippi is taking on scrutiny after action in the Mississippi House of Representatives.
Lack of information persists about how the bill might affect K-12 funding, which, in the past, has always been according to the Mississippi Adequate Education, or MAEP funding formula.
Depending upon who one speaks with, DeSoto County, which has more than 34,000 students, could stand to receive more funding but exactly how much more and under what conditions is not yet fully known.
"I have not looked at it yet," state Sen. Kevin Blackwell, R-Olive Branch, said Monday from the floor of the Senate. "Once we get done tomorrow, I will look at it. From what I understand, we should get a 13.5 percent increase but I am not sure of the timeline," he added.
Blackwell said the bill would likely go to conference committee.
The MAEP formula was developed more than a decade after the landmark Better Education Act of 1982, which mandates, among other things, maintenance of effort — meaning a district cannot receive less funding than the year prior if student population numbers support such funding.
However, it should be pointed out the MAEP funding formula was only funded twice — once in 2003 and then again in 2007.
House Bill 957 emerged from the House Appropriations Committee on a voice vote, mostly along partisan lines.
DeSoto County School District officials did not wish to comment on the proposed new education funding formula until the bill's affect on funding the state's largest school district crystallizes and comes more sharply into focus.
DeSoto County Director of Communications Katherine Nelson on Monday said district officials wanted to learn more about the proposal before offering a comment.
The proposal, called the "Mississippi Uniform Per Student Funding Formula," or UPS, incorporates some of the controversial EdBuild consortium group's recommendations to the Mississippi Legislature.
Education advocates say at full funding, UPS will provide less money to public schools than MAEP does.
The final vote on the bill was 66-54, with the majority of Democrats voting "no", joined by nine Republicans whose districts would lose funding under the new proposal. Two Democrats joined Republicans in the majority vote to move the proposal over to the Senate.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.