MAEP funding detailed

Published 12:03 am Thursday, December 4, 2014

NATCHEZ — The director of an education advocacy organization asked Natchez residents Wednesday to support an amendment requiring the state to fully fund the public education system.

Nancy Loome, founder and executive director of The Parents’ Campaign, spoke Wednesday at the Rotary of Club of Natchez regarding a proposed amendment that will be on the November 2015 general election ballot.

Loome spoke on behalf of members of another group, Better Schools, Better Jobs, which spearheaded an initiative to collect the 107,216 signatures of registered voters required to place the amendment on the ballot.

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The group managed to collect 121,691 signatures — including more than 2,500 in Adams County —15,000 more than needed.

Loome said an adequate education for Mississippi children should be something that future generations can expect.

“A group got together and said, ‘I don’t think we can rely on the Legislature to do right by our children,’ and so they came up with a constitutional amendment,” Loome said. “Should we expect our children to have an adequate education program? Because we’re not doing that right now.”

In 1997, the Legislature enacted the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, a complex formula designed to give schools enough money to meet midlevel academic standards.

The formula has been fully funded only twice and is unlikely to be fulfilled in the coming year.

The amount districts across the state have been underfunded since MAEP was created, Loome said, totals nearly $1.6 billion, including nearly $10.9 million for the Natchez-Adams School District.

Loome asked for the support of Natchez residents in November when they head to the polls.

“We at the Parents’ Campaign are pushing for lots of things, and adequate funding is one of them,” Loome said. “We do see a correlation between funding and achievement.”

Loome said comparing Mississippi to other states, such as Massachusetts, who have lower levels of poverty show a direct link to achievement levels.

“Mississippi is at a serious disadvantage because 71 percent of the children in Mississippi qualify as economically disadvantaged,” Loome said. “Massachusetts, which consistently ranks highest on achievement, has 35 percent.”

Loome said she believes voters approving the amendment in November and the state fully funding an adequate education will allow Mississippi to compete with any other state in the country.