Making heads or tails out of hieroglyphics

By TIM BEELAND,

Egyptian hieroglyphics. It is bound to be Egyptian hieroglyphics. Either that or some type of prehistoric cave dwelling drawings. “Has to be one or the other,” I thought. But no. No that’s not what it was at all. In fact the hieroglyphics sent out in a press release last week from State Auditor Stacey Pickering’s office is reported to be the “Mississippi Adequate Education Program Flow Chart - Year 1.”

It’s hieroglyphics!

Judge for yourself. That’s it in Exhibit A.

Exhibit B was also sent out in the press release from the Auditor’s office. It is labeled “A 12-Year Overview of District Accountability System Changes 2004-2016.”

Certainly that one is a prehistoric cave dwelling drawing.

Honestly I can understand the cave dwelling drawing better than the hieroglyphics. Regular readers know that we’ve often complained on this page that the constant changing of the rules when it comes to testing and grading of our students, and teachers, and schools is much like a dog chasing it’s tail. We never catch it. Never will at the rate these sort of things change in Mississippi.

Look at that overview chart. It makes no sense to me, and I do consider myself fairly educated and a good reader of charts. Not this one though. No, not this one at all.

And when it comes to that darn MAEP thing. Good Lord, if anyone can understand that please show up at my door tomorrow morning and help me out, because I am lost.

“Who comes up with something like that,” my wife asked me when I showed her a copy. She’s an educator with 35 years of classroom experience under her belt and I think just looking at it gave her a headache.

If this thing is real, and I have no reason to doubt that it is since Auditor Pickering sent it out himself, I can’t even begin to imagine that the majority of our state lawmakers can make heads or tails of it. Unless, of course, they are Egyptian, or they live in a cave.

Oh, wait, I may have hit on something there! I suppose that’s not fair, at least they are willing to put their names on a ballot and try to do what they feel is best for their constituents. I suppose that’s what they are doing anyway.

Here’s what Auditor Pickering said in his press release.

Due to the recent debate and House passage of HB 957 (Mississippi Uniform Per Student Funding Formula Act of 2018), I thought it would be prudent to share the historical research and information compiled by my office about the many changes to the MAEP.  Included here is a list of current MAEP state code sections that have been amended, added, or changed; a copy of the School District Rating and Accountability System changes over time; and an overview flow chart of the actual MAEP formula.

I hope you find this information useful in future discussions. Because it accounts for more than 40 percent of total expenditures from the state general fund, the Office of the State Auditor has continued to track MAEP and related K-12 public school funding and expenditure data for more than ten years. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact my office at 601-576-2800.

We may need to call that number, because this stuff is certainly not going to be “useful to me in any future discussions.” I wouldn’t know what I was discussing.

Perhaps that was the purpose of disseminating this information. Mass confusion.

These bullet points from the body of the email are a bit easier to decipher for the common man. A bit, mind you.

• The MAEP formula has changed many times over the last 20 years.  Some were changes to the law and some were regulatory changes by Mississippi Department of Education — all of them affected the calculation.

• First written in 1994; In 1997, SB 2649, was the first major overhaul including funding projections and comparisons, Add-On costs, pupil-teacher ratios, vocational program allowances, transportation, gifted, local support, counting transfer students, preliminary estimate calculations, distribution and payment of funds, violations and penalties, education enhancement funds distribution, etc.

• In 2005, there were more major revisions to the formula.

• In 2006, the formula underwent a major change — instead of full recalculations every year, it is only recalculated every fourth year and is adjusted in intervening years. 

• Again, in 2011, there were a number of changes made to the MAEP formula and its components.

• In 2013, the Legislature finally mandated a definition of attendance, because the State Department of Education failed to provide uniform guidance.  This helped to make the formula more equitable to all school districts, but also changed the formula calculation by using better data.

• School District Accountability Ratings affect the MAEP.  The attached chart shows how the accountability formula has changed. This has had significant impacts on the MAEP formula because of the way MDE “sets the bar,” and defines a successful school district.

• Federal law and regulation changes have influenced the State MAEP formula.  After 2012, the new federal Community Eligibility Program (CEP) related to Free Lunch caused artificial inflation of “At-Risk” Program funding formula portion of the MAEP.  It gave 53 districts and 506 individual schools in Mississippi free lunch status for the student population, regardless of individual eligibility, which, for those entities, padded their MAEP allotment to the detriment of all other schools and districts in the state. The Base Student Cost (BSC) is multiplied by the artificially inflated Free Lunch count from school districts to establish funding for “At-Risk” programs, with no regard for true At-Risk needs.

That’s the extent of the e-mail. I’m still confused. How about you? Let’s all call that number. Let’s call our representative and senators too. Let’s find out if they can make heads or tails of any of this.

You know, heads, tails, hieroglyphics, prehistoric cave dwelling drawings...they all look alike...don’t they?