Lawmakers Appoint MAEP Commission

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In a move to keep Gov. Haley Barbour out of the process, lawmakers on Sunday approved the creation of a commission to study the state's funding formula for public schools.

A bill to create the commission to study the efficiency and equity provided by the Mississippi Adequate Education Program died on Thursday.

House Education Committee Chairman Cecil Brown said if lawmakers didn't pass the bill, Barbour would appoint his own commission.

The MAEP formula is meant to ensure every school district gets enough money to meet midlevel accreditation standards. It was adopted in 1997, but has only received full funding once.

The formula has been questioned by the governor and some lawmakers because of what is perceived to be an increasing drain on the state budget. Some also question whether all districts are paying their fair share from property taxes.

In the meantime, lawmakers resumed budget talks Sunday. However, the House and Senate were still millions of dollars away from a compromise.

Senate President Pro Tempore Travis Little says his chamber was prepared to work until the midnight deadline, but no time past that if no compromise could be reached.

House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, told his colleagues that it "would be a sin against public service" to end the session without a budget.

Lawmakers are working on a $3.8 billion budget, and they have half a billion dollars more in requests than Mississippi has money to spend.

The main point of contention is public education. The Senate approved a spending plan for K-12 that was $200 million less than what was requested by the state Department of Education. The House proposal originally was $25 million below the request, but school officials indicated they could still do their jobs at that level.

Late Saturday afternoon, the House passed a resolution to extend the session until April 10. Little says the Senate won't consider the resolution.