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MAEP doesn't paint the complete picture of K-12 education spending in Mississippi

COMPLEX: Just try adding up the Mississippi Adequate Education Formula. Photo illustration by Steve Wilson

When public school advocates talk about schools being underfunded in Mississippi, they cite how the state's funding formula, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, has only been fully funded twice in its 20-plus years.

What they're not telling you is that the MAEP is only one part of the appropriations for K-12 education. In addition to federal funds, there are several other funding streams of state revenue outside the MAEP.

Last year, state and federal funds added up to $3.45 billion for Mississippi K-12 education.

MAEP in fiscal 2019 was $1.99 billion, which is more than $476 million below the full funding called for by the formula, which uses a complex calculation to determine how much funding schools require.

The formula consists of average daily attendance times base student cost, plus at-risk component minus local contribution plus 8-percent guarantee. Then, only after add-on programs — transportation, special education, gifted education, vocational education and alternative education — are added to the formula allocation, is the final MAEP funding request calculated.

A ballot initiative that would've given districts the right to sue the state in the chancery court in Hinds County for not fully funding MAEP failed in 2015. A state Supreme Court decision in October 2017 clarified that the Legislature isn't compelled by law to fully fund the MAEP in a lawsuit brought by 21 school districts.

If the fiscal 2019 MAEP request was fully funded, K-12 education would've amounted to more than 44 percent of the general fund budget, which was $5.548 billion in 2019.

DEPENDENT: More than 42 percent of Mississippi's budget came from federal funds in fiscal 2015. Photo illustration by the Tax Foundation

According to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, Mississippi was second nationally in fiscal 2015 in the amount of federal aid it receives as a percentage of its general revenues, which was 42.1 percent. That was just one-tenth less than Louisiana, which was the state listed as most dependent on federal funds.

In fiscal 2019, federal funds accounted for 44.9 percent of the state's revenue.

The state's public education system received $807,704,841 in federal funds in fiscal 2019, which ends July 1. Add that to $1.99 billion and you get $2.79 billion for K-12 education.

On the state side, there is something called the Education Enhancement Fund that is funded by a percentage of the state's sales and use taxes. In fiscal 2018, $299 million flowed into the fund from sales tax revenue and $32 million from use tax revenue. More than $260 million in fiscal 2018 went to K-12 education.

The Education Enhancement Fund not only helps K-12 education, but the state’s community colleges and universities with money for capital improvements, supplies and other purposes.

Now we're up to slightly more than $3 billion spent by federal and state taxpayers on K-12 in Mississippi.

School districts in the Chickasaw cession receive an extra allotment of court-ordered funds to compensate for their lack of 16th-section land revenues, such as timber rights. Sixteenth-section properties were provided by the Land Ordinance of 1785, which divided up the land west of the Appalachians and east of the Mississippi river into six-mile square townships, which were further subdivided into 32 sections of one square mile apiece. Each township had the 16th section reserved for the maintenance of area public schools.

In fiscal 2019, the Chickasaw cession outlay was $20.5 million from the general fund.

There is also spending from state’s general fund for education programs outside the formula, which added up to to $119 million in fiscal 2019. Among those are grant programs for capital improvements at schools, teacher recruitment and certification programs and dropout prevention programs.

Add the Chickasaw cession and funding outside the MAEP formula funding and that's how you get to $3.45 billion, which is 16.5 percent of the state's fiscal 2019 total budget of $20.8 billion.

In comparison, the state's total spending in fiscal 2019 on social welfare is $8.1 billion, or 39 percent of the state's budget.

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