Slow down on MAEP fix
Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn should acknowledge the obvious and not rush things.
It’s become increasingly clear that he, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and others involved in the process misjudged how long it would take and how complicated it would be to rewrite the formula by which the state funds its public schools.
Last week, even as the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill to fund the schools using the current Mississippi Adequate Education Program formula, Gunn wasn’t giving up on the idea of still getting the rewrite through the Legislature in the next few weeks. He said he thought if it couldn’t be accomplished before lawmakers adjourn in early April, then they could still be called back soon afterward for a special session to deal with the matter.
Reeves was sounding less sure.
The lieutenant governor is being more sensible on this point.
Even if Gunn and Reeves can resolve whatever differences they are having on the MAEP rewrite, the Republican leaders can’t just dump their final product in the laps of their fellow lawmakers and expect them to sign off. Or at least their fellow lawmakers, regardless of party, should balk at such a bum rush. Funding public schools is a complex process, determining not just what should be the state’s overall portion but how that portion should be divvied up among the districts so as to take into account the variations in wealth and student challenges. Whatever that recommended mix ends up being, there are probably going to be losers and winners, and that will be cause for study and debate.
In the meantime, school districts are planning now for the 2017-2018 school year, and they need to know what to expect in terms of state funding. Before they offer contracts to certified personnel, they understandably want to be sure they will have sufficient funding to pay them.
Given the lateness of the hour — both for the Legislature and the school districts — the wisest course is to let this year be a stand-pat one, and let the 2018 legislative session deal with the proposed rewrite.
Both Gunn and Reeves have said they want the new funding formula to be done correctly the first time. The odds of achieving that will be greater if they don’t rush it.