Local officials react to defeat of education funding bill

State Sen. Angela Turner-Ford (left) and SOCSD Superintendent Eddie Peasant
Staff Writer

On Thursday, the Mississippi State Senate voted down House Bill 957, effectively ending per-student funding this legislative session.

The bill called for a $4,800 base amount per student in a given district, with various additions depending on the student’s needs and situation. Districts would have received $6,240 per high school student. The perstudent funding model was based on recommendations from the New Jersey-based consulting firm EdBuild, which was first hired by the state in 2016. The bill was defeated 27-21, with eight Republican senators crossing party lines to vote with Democrats.

Leslie Fye, a Starkville public education advocate and co-founder of the Mississippi Public Education PAC said she considered the bill’s demise a victory.

“We’re ecstatic that the senate had a bipartisan vote, and that Republican senators were choosing to not vote the party line, and instead vote for the children of Mississippi,” Fye said.

Sen. Angela Turner-Ford, D-West Point, who voted against the bill, said she thought no one knew what the outcome would be prior to the vote.

“It turned out the way that it did, and I don’t think anyone knew what the outcome was going to be,” Turner-Ford said. “ I don’t think that there was any real way to foresee what the outcome would be on the vote.”

Turner-Ford also said she was unsure of the next step for funding Mississippi schools with the demise of H.B. 957.

“I think the debate may have been 45 minutes to an hour perhaps, and I’m satisfied with the vote,” Turner-Ford said.

Turner-Ford also praised the eight Republican senators who voted no.

“I would say that they had to go against the grain,” Turner-Ford said. “Perhaps they knew that they may not be in the majority of having the winning vote, but I think that they just vote what they thought was proper or correct under the circumstances.”

The two additional senators representing the Golden Triangle, Chuck Younger, R-Columbus, and Gary Jackson, R-French Camp, voted in favor of the bill.

Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District Superintendent Eddie Peasant spoke in support of the bill’s demise.

“I believe that it was good that it was voted down at this point, because there were several things in it that were questionable, and it felt like it was kind of being rushed onto us without being really thought out as it needed to be to be favorable for our children,” Peasant said.

Peasant also voiced discomfort with a per student funding model, saying he would prefer a fully funded version of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP).

“It was my understanding that over the next eight years, it would have funded us less than even the underfunded MAEP,” Peasant said.