EdBuild tours Lamar County school

EdBuild tours Lamar County school
EdBuild tours Lamar County school/Photo credit: WDAM

LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - The funding formula for education in Mississippi was created in 1997, and one nonprofit organization is reviewing it to see if it meets the needs of current students.

EdBuild, a New Jersey based nonprofit organization focused on bringing awareness and fairness to the way states fund schools was recently hired by Mississippi legislative leaders to re-evaluate the school funding formula.

"We've been asked to take a look at lots of different mechanisms within the way that schools are funded from the state level and make recommendations on how to improve those," said Rebecca Sibilia,  EdBuild CEO.

On Tuesday, EdBuild officials toured the Oak Grove Primary School in Lamar County to get a first-hand look at some of their skills.

"They got to see a first-grade classroom where they were actually doing math and a Kindergarten class where they are actually writing sentences, they were writing letters to Santa," Lamar County School District Superintendent Tess Smith said. "So we got to see some great classroom activities today and the kids really impressed everyone."

Mississippi Sen. District 44, John Polk, who has grandchildren that attend school at Oak Grove Primary, was also on hand for the tour.

"In many schools, not here in Lamar County, we're lucky, we have good administration, but in many districts in Mississippi the classroom was not getting the money it needed to teach our children," Polk said. "Let's face it, that's where the learning happens and that's the most important thing that a school does."

Polk said there are changes that need to be made when it comes to education spending in Mississippi.

"The more money a school spent, the more money through the formula they would get, which is not right, what we need to do is how much does it cost to teach a student," Polk said.

Sibilia said, "We are simply looking at how Mississippi compares to the rest of the states in the country, really from a national lens. One of the most important things that I would emphasize is that it's the teachers, principals and superintendents that we've been talking to that are actually having an impact on changing the way that schools are funded."

Smith said seeing the work students are doing this day in time is outstanding, and added that things have changed greatly since she was a student.

"It's just amazing to be in these classrooms and watch what they're doing and learning, education as a whole has changed so much," Smith said.

Polk added that some of the changes need to be made in multiple districts across the state.

"What this does is take each individual student and say this is what we think it costs to educate this student, and then so that student gets the funding," Polk said.

According to Polk, the EdBuild officials will create their report and compile their assessments and present it to state education leaders.

"We've been very impressed (with Lamar County); I think we have seen learning at the caliber of lots of other states that we have worked in," Sibilia said.

For anyone that would like to send in feedback regarding education, Sibilia said to send comments to schoolfinance@ls.ms.gov.