HPSD not entitled to be MAEP fully fundedBy BUSTER WOLFE,
The State Supreme Court has ruled that 21 public school districts – including Hattiesburg – are not entitled to be fully funded under the Mississippi Adequate Education Program because the funding is not mandatory.
According to the majority opinion written by Chief Justice William Waller Jr., to make MAEP an enforceable constitutional right, it would have to be in the Constitution itself, which is does not. Or MAEP would have to be the only way that the Legislature could meets its constitutional obligation, which it is not.
The lead counsel for the school districts is former Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.
In the section of the Constitution concerning the MAEP – Section 37-151-6 – “with fiscal year 2007, the Legislature shall fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.” However, because the governor has no obligation to approve any bill, the Legislature cannot mandate that the governor sign the MAEP funding because of the separation of powers.
“Consequently, the Districts cannot show any direct entitlement to the funds they request, because they have not shown that the Governor would have signed a bill fully funding MAEP. Thus, the Districts have shown no injury,” the opinion states.
The ruling by the State Supreme Court affirmed a Hinds Chancery Court ruling earlier this year.
The Mississippi Adequate Education Program is a law that provides a formula that is designed to ensure an adequate education for every Mississippi child - whether that child lives in a “wealthy” community or a “poor” one. It is designed to provide schools the resources necessary for adequate student achievement.
According to the Mississippi Department of Education, the MAEP formula produces a base student cost, the amount that is required to provide each student an adequate education in a Mississippi school. Each district is required to provide up to 27 percent of the base student cost through a local contribution made up of local ad valorem taxes. The state funds the difference between what a local community is able to provide (up to a maximum of 27 percent) and the total base student cost, and that amount is multiplied by the school district's average daily attendance to get the district's MAEP allocation.
The formula is recalculated every four years and is adjusted for inflation in the intervening years by multiplying 40 percent of the base student cost by the current rate of inflation as computed by the state's economist.
Districts that have had a growth in enrollment in each of the three consecutive years before the appropriation are awarded additional "high growth" funding by adding the average growth for the three prior years to the district's average daily attendance.
The MAEP provides funding for teacher and other district employee salaries, retirement and insurance; textbooks and other instructional materials, basic operational costs (utilities, facility maintenance, etc.), transportation (operation of buses), special education, vocational education, gifted education and alternative education.
State MAEP funding is not intended to pay for administrator and superintendent salaries. That portion of the base student cost is paid out of each district’s local contribution.