Mississippi Education Spending Rises, Student Achievement Stays Poor
Despite massive increases in public education funding, student performance has either remained constant or declined nationwide. Mississippi is no different.
A study by Andrew J. Coulson, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, analyzed data collected since 1972 on per-pupil spending and student performance using state SAT score averages adjusted for participation rates and student demographics.
Mississippi education spending has risen since 1972, but student performance, as measured by the SAT averages, has remained the same or declined.
The Mississippi Legislature increased K-12 education funding by 3.8 percent for fiscal year 2015, from $2.34 billion in 2014 to $2.43 billion. That figure represents 40.5 percent of the state’s $6 billion annual budget.
“If we really care about children’s education, it’s not enough to just spend more on it year after year,” Coulson said. “We have to make sure that we make the best possible use of our limited resources, or we shortchange students.”
Coulson said school districts awash in ever-increasing funding have been on a hiring spree nationally. Since 1972, public schools have hired twice as many people to educate only 9 percent more students. Employment has grown 11 times faster than enrollment.
“Sadly, our school systems have squandered the talents of so many of their employees that adding 3 million people [nationally] to the rolls has done nothing for students’ verbal or mathematical achievement,” Coulson said.
Further Bloat Ahead
Despite the study, there’s a strong possibility spending will continue to increase. Mississippi K-12 funding will gobble up an even bigger chunk of the state’s budget if the state’s voters approve a proposed ballot initiative on education funding.
In fact, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, a state law, says $2.43 billion isn’t enough. The law was passed in 1997 by a Democrat-majority Legislature over the veto of Republican Gov. Kirk Fordice. Only twice, in 2003 and 2007, has the Legislature met the full requirements of the MAEP formula, because lawmakers are not constitutionally obligated to completely satisfy the funding requirements of the MAEP formula.
MAEP has a complicated formula designed to ensure every school district gets adequate funding from the state. It includes factors such as average daily attendance, number of teachers per 1,000 students, and the percentage of students qualifying for free lunches. Using successful school districts as a baseline, the numbers are recalculated every four years and adjusted for inflation.
Even though education funding increased, it would’ve required more than $250 million more to satisfy the MAEP formula this year.
The activist organization Better Schools = Better Jobs is trying to collect 107,000 signatures before Oct. 1 to place an initiative on the state ballot in 2015 that would make fully funding MAEP a constitutional requirement.