Will ‘Better Schools, Better Jobs’ Amendment help Miss. schools?

“Better Schools, Better Jobs” is seeking a constitutional amendment to require the Mississippi Legislature to fully fund public education according to the MAEP formula.  If 107,000 registered voters sign their petition by April 2015, the initiative will go on the ballot for voters to decide.

Adopted in 1997, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program is a formula that determines total district funding.  Of the $6 Billion state budget, education consumes $2.4 Billion and is receiving an $85 Million dollar increase in 2015.  Fully funding MAEP would require 10-15% more funding.  Per The Parents’ Campaign, that increase would have resulted in $2.54M, $7.67M, and $5.23M more for Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson Counties, respectively.

While fully funding education sounds like a good thing, there are several important considerations:

  1. Local governments are responsible for up to 27% of the MAEP formula.  Local officials can always vote to increase the local contribution to their city and county’s schools. 
  2. If you send your children to private school, fully funding MAEP is equivalent to a tax increase.  While an actual tax increase may not happen, under the proposed amendment more state tax dollars would be directed away from state services you use to a state service (public school) that you don’t.  Education vouchers would change that calculus but the state legislature rejected such an option for just 500 special needs students during the 2014 session.
  3. The Mississippi Brain Drain Commission reports that the state is a net exporter of college graduates.  While MAEP does not fund college and university education, state universities are primarily filled with state students.  Therefore state tax dollars are ultimately subsidizing other states’ economies.  Improving Mississippi’s economy and job opportunities (and thereby the state and local tax base) is a better way to improve school funding.

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