Positives for Local School Districts & Early Learning Collaboratives
Today, with a deadline looming for the Senate Education Committee to take action on a possible change to Mississippi’s $2 billion-plus education funding formula, I, along with my Senate Education Committee colleagues debated the merits of House Bill 957 and the proposed Uniform Per Student (USP) funding formula proposed by the House leadership.
I am supporting this funding bill, with changes recommended in today’s committee hearing, for the following important reasons:
Student-Focused: The recommendations would require schools and districts to tailor their environment around the student, rather than the other way around, bringing allocation of Mississippi’s education dollars into the 21st Century.
More Funding for High Performing Districts like Ocean Springs: Of the estimated projected additional $107 million in funding, the Ocean Springs School District stands to receive almost $4,000 more per student. Ocean Springs School District school leaders and their dedicated staffs have done everything we have asked them to do in terms of providing a stellar education to all of our children. They have added programs and enhancements to help those with special needs and circumstances, have continually dealt with increasing school enrollment, while always striving and meeting the highest academic standards. They have been doing this for many years despite being at a disadvantage due to a cap on funding of tax dollars that can be dedicated to its education system, all the while there are districts across the state that have chosen to not to do the same.
School districts in places like Pascagoula or Biloxi, who are fortunate to have larger industrial/commercial tax bases to help underwrite their school budgets, will have their state funding remain at the status quo for the most part. In the case of the Pascagoula-Gautier School District, this means continuing to receive its same share of local dollars. The new funding formula will not take effect until 2021, and provisions are in place to ensure that districts will see no cuts in their existing funding in 2019 or 2020.
More Funding for ELL Programs: The bill contains more money dedicated and directed to ELL students, which will benefit Coast schools as a whole, including the Pascagoula-Gautier School District
Permanent Funding Stream for Early Learning Collaboratives: House Bill 957 provides, for the first time, a permanent funding stream for Early Learning Collaboratives (ELCs) that have been immensely successful in elevating the level of preparedness our children bring with them to first grade and have helped Mississippi garner top ranks nationally for our work in this area.