Education funding a key issue for 2018

Source: MGN
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JACKSON, Miss. (WTOK) - It doesn't take long for the lobbying on various issues to get started each legislative session in Mississippi. Now, the details on education funding are sparking early controversy.

There are two big issues at play for public education. First is the potential change to the school funding law. Second is a possible expansion of school vouchers.

There's a renewed push to adopt ideas first brought up in last year's session. Leadership hired New Jersey-based EdBuild to offer recommendations on a new formula.

"It's just a different way to distribute money to our school districts which is a combination of state funds and local funds," said Nancy Loome, executive director of the Parents' Campaign.

But The Parent's Campaign says lawmakers are telling them that the House is considering an elimination of the funding formula from the law. They say that would erase the legislature's obligation to provide adequate school funding.

"Even in the years where we don't hit the mark, at least we know what we're shooting for and we have some measure that allows lawmakers to determine how well they're doing and how close they are to providing appropriately for our children," said Senate Education Committee chairman, Sen. Gray Tollison.

Tollison maintains that they are instead trading out the old funding vehicle for a newer model.

"Take the existing money we're putting into education with MAEP and this $500 million. Put it into a new formula. Start there. The conversation about 'do you increase funding?' is a separate conversation."

The other issue kicking up dust early is vouchers.

"It's not appropriate to use public funds that are intended for public education to subsidize tuition at private schools," Loome said.

"The end goal is to provide an opportunity for good education for every student that lives in this state," said Tollison. "And this is what we're trying to do as a legislature. And those needs are not being met."

Also at the Capitol Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee passed a bill that would direct certain online sales tax collections to roads and bridges. That's essentially the same proposal that caused big debate between the House and Senate at the end of the 2017 legislative session.