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MAEP appropriation critical to our children, state, future

Editor:

Much has been said and written concerning the funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) in the last several weeks, as there should be. No single appropriation considered by our State Legislature is more important to our State, our children, and our future than MAEP. This program is how we, as state taxpayers, provide the resources necessary to educate our children. It is designed to address two primary concerns: 1) adequate resources for a very basic education, and 2) equity in the distribution of those resources to insure that every child, regardless of where he/she lives in this state, is guaranteed that minimum amount of resources. The MAEP funds provide for teacher salaries, buses, textbooks, and operational cost.

The MAEP has been the most reviewed, debated, and audited of any program in the state. The PEER Committee has officially reviewed it at least twice; the Department of Audit has reviewed and audited it; official task forces have reviewed it; legislative committees have reviewed it and debated it extensively. The results of all those reviews???? Only minor adjustments have been made. Why??? Because, if properly funded, MAEP works.

There are two basic reasons why MAEP will work, if funded: 1) the “formula” is not hypothetical; it is based on the real cost of educating a child in Mississippi. The calculation comes from actual costs of Mississippi school districts, and is audited each and every year, as required by state law, by either an independent auditing firm approved by the State Department of Audit, or by the Audit Department itself, and 2) it is distributed, on a “per student” basis. The primary basis for the formula is simply the number of students in attendance times the “per student” cost, with adjustments for equity and “at-risk” students.

It is time to go ahead and fund the program that will provide our educational system the resources it needs to be successful. Mississippi now has in place one of the strongest accountability systems for K-12 education in the nation. This accountability system is working; but it can work at a much faster and more efficient pace if we provide the proper resources. We all know how important a basic education system is to our future. Independent studies stress the importance of education; the business community stresses the importance of education. Governor Barbour recently remarked to the Mississippi School Board Association: “Education is the number one economic development issue and the number one quality of life issue in our state. It is rightly the number one priority of state government.” So let’s allow the system, already in our state law, to work — Strong accountability coupled with adequate funding.

Can we possibly put the politics aside, and do what’s right for our children and our future? Provide an adequate and stable funding source for our educational system.