HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Several Pine Belt superintendents hashed out EdBuild's education funding recommendations with state lawmakers to try to understand the impact on their districts.
EdBuild's new plan suggests the state pay less and local taxpayers spend more to align Mississippi with spending in other states.
"We also want our schools to locally pay a fair share," said Sen. Gray Tollison (R-Oxford) and chair of the Senate education committee. "One of the pieces of information (EdBuild) provided to us (was) Mississippi providing less on a local level than the national average, almost 10 percent less. We're paying more from a state level than the national average, so those are issues and facts that we have to take into consideration as we go through this process."
However, several districts in the Pine Belt already pay the maximum amount of property tax allowed.
"One of the things that I'm very passionate about is a district such as Petal that's capped out at the mil rate of 55, where our community steps up and supplements what is not provided through the state," said Matt Dillon, superintendent of Petal Public Schools. "I think it's important for us not to be punished for stepping up and supplementing because we value education, and it's important to us as a community. I just want to make sure that there's equity and there's fairness in regards to our district and the things that we're doing locally and what EdBuild might mean to what happens in Petal."
Tollison said, "I don't think there will be an issue. I think you have several school districts in this area that are up against that 55, and I think that shows strong community support for those schools, and there's something to be said for that. But there's certainly not going to be anything that I know of that will have any impact on that cap. As a matter of fact, that will be probably the same."
The suggested formula bumps funding for certain types of students, like special needs or low-income students, and allocates money based the of those learners in a district.
"Depending on the type of students in a school, they would receive money based on that," Tollison said. "Whether you're a gifted student, a special needs student, English language learner, career and technical education, and they would add up those number of students in those categories and give you funding based on that on top of a base student cost that they already have. I think it would be a simpler formula. I think it would be better for the schools in terms of transparency, and you know, with that formula, I hope that we are able to give more autonomy to our schools and more predictability about how much money they're getting going forward."
Some wealthier districts worry they may not receive as much money from the state as they are used to, but lawmakers said there is a stop-loss plan in place to keep that under control.
"You will get no less than 3 percent or no more than 8 percent increase, so those stop-losses and those maximum goals, I think would help smooth things out," said Sen. John Polk (R-Hattiesburg).
EdBuild suggested any changes be implement over five to eight years.