Posts Tagged ‘education’

State Auditor Informs Legislature About MAEP Formula Flaws

Posted on: October 21st, 2014 by Lisa

JACKSON- State Auditor Stacey Pickering has notified the Legislature of his concerns with the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) formula.

The report provides detailed information to lawmakers on the MAEP formula in advance of the upcoming 2015 legislative session.

“Each year the Office of the State Auditor provides an overview of MAEP funds, how arbitrary changes are continually made to the formula, and how funds are used, or not used, for our students,” Pickering said. “Accountability issues are a major concern of this office, and it is past time for the MAEP formula to be seriously examined.”

Four flaws discussed in summary include:

• MAEP funding is given to districts in a lump sum with no oversight or accountability regarding how the funds are to be used as no targeted spending is required by law:

– Spending MAEP funds is at the discretion of the district with no state requirements.
– The rate at which administrative expenditures has grown far exceeds the rate at which classroom spending has grown. In fact, in all years except 2004-5, the rate of administrative spending has significantly out-paced classroom spending. Expenditures are increasingly going to administrative costs as opposed to where the money should be going, which is the classroom.

• While using enrollment might initially appear to be an ideal funding mechanism for school districts because it artificially inflates the number of children actually attending classes, it is a poor mechanism for funding for several reasons:

– It removes a district’s incentive to get children to attend school regularly.
– It does not properly reflect student or school needs.
– It would add an additional $30 million or more to school districts with no guarantee that it would be focused where it is needed the most- in the classroom.

• Using the new federal Community Eligibility Program (CEP) causes artificial inflation of the state’s “At-Risk” Program:

– This new program will give 53 districts and 506 individual schools the ability to give free lunch to all students regardless of individual eligibility.
– Base Student Cost (BSC) uses free lunch data to establish funding for “At-Risk” programs– inflated 10 percent in the “At-Risk” program portion.

• The recent change in law to use inflation rates for the BSC calculation and only fully recalculate the MAEP every fourth year will increase funding demands. This can occur in the following instances:

– If a one-time injection into the formula (i.e. 2015-2016 Teacher Pay Raise) is not properly removed and accounted for in full recalculation years; and
– When the federal government allows the inflation rate to move, it will increase the BSC, and will not be tied to any performance, accountability, or outcome measures, or actual need.

“Our brief shows that those able to manipulate a few characteristics of the formula can increase the funding of K-12 schools by nearly $40 million without even looking at actual need and with no required targeted spending,” Pickering added. “Even if we did know exactly how much to fund MAEP with using precise calculations there is no mechanism in place to ensure that once taxpayer dollars are sent to the districts they will be spent on teachers and students in the classroom.”

The full report can be viewed here.

State Auditor Pickering: MAEP Formula Not Reliable

Posted on: September 15th, 2014 by Lisa


JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi Adequate Education Program, also known as MAEP, is the formula used to fund public school districts in the state.

The State Auditor, Stacey Pickering says there is a flaw in the system when it comes to districts reporting the number of students attending school.

“What we’ve found in the last 12 months is most of the school districts we’ve audited are not actually following the 63 percent law and have not implemented it,” says Pickering. He adds for the last few years he hasn’t validated and certified the MAEP formula for the state.

In 2013 legislatures agreed that students must be in school for 63 percent of the day to be counted as present. “That’s addressed about $1.9 Billion of the funding formula. So these aren’t small numbers we’re talking about,” says Pickering.

Funding is partly based on the number of students attending school. Another part of the formula and Pickering’s audit, includes free lunches for students. “Potentially 53 school districts in Mississippi could have 100 percent of their students on free lunch,” says Pickering.

It’s part of a federal program that requires the state to provide free lunches for “At Risk” students. What that means, legislation hasn’t defined “At Risk” but the state would be required to pay additional money to the school for them.

“If a school district has a predominant number of students on free and reduced lunch, the odds are they’re in a property poor district anyway,” says Former Governor Ronnie Musgrove, the co-author of the MAEP formula.

“We’re fighting a flawed formula that’s not even accurate that’s not even correct, bit it’s how we fund education in Mississippi,” says Pickering.

Former Governor Ronnie Musgrove says the formula isn’t flawed but it’s under funded.

“When we under fund it you are looking at a school district and saying we’re not going to give you the money it takes to be successful,” says Gov. Musgrove.

Pickering wouldn’t release which specific districts had discrepancies, but those audits will take place in the next few weeks.

Full story:

State Auditor Unable To Certify FY2015 MAEP Calculation

Posted on: February 12th, 2014 by Lisa

JACKSON- State Auditor Stacey Pickering announced today that he is unable to certify the accuracy of the FY 2015 final estimate calculation of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP).

Members of the legislature and the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) were notified on Friday.

“I am unable to certify the MAEP calculation again this year because the data used by the Department of Education is not accurate and unreliable,” Auditor Pickering said. “And because there was a recalculation of the Base Student Cost this year, these errors and flaws will be compounded and will remain uncorrected over the next three years until the next recalculation takes place.”

The Office of the State Auditor has found:

  • School districts are not in compliance with House Bill 1530 (2013 Regular Session), new legislation designed to standardize the average daily attendance counts across the State. ADA data accounts for $1.9 billion of the MAEP formula, but many school districts are not able to comply partially because MDE failed to work with software companies on a statewide level to ensure they have timely and effectively implemented software changes to uniformly account for the new law.
  • The “At-Risk” part of the MAEP formula, $82 million total, relies on free lunch program application data which does not require proof of income eligibility and is difficult to verify due to federal audit restrictions.
  • The Add-on Cost salary increment used in the calculation, specifically Special Education, Vocational Education, and Gifted Education is arbitrary. This is an ongoing trend for at least the past five years.

OSA recommends MDE verify and utilize the most current data for all elements of the MAEP estimates.

OSA also recommends MDE compile budget requests, based on research, analysis, documentation, and presentation of fact-based evidence, that project the costs of meeting the actual needs of our public schools.

View the letter here.

State Auditor Presents Eight School Districts with “Achievement in Accountability” Awards

Posted on: February 4th, 2014 by Lisa

NATCHEZ, Miss.- State Auditor Stacey Pickering presented eight school districts with “Achievement in Accountability” certificates at the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents Winter Conference in Natchez yesterday.

Awards were presented to the following: Amite County School District, Forest Municipal School District, Jackson County School District, Jefferson Davis School District, Natchez-Adams School District, Pascagoula School District, Pearl Public School District, and West Jasper School District.

Each of these districts was recognized for their exemplary performance in capturing and reporting data in: student enrollment, student absentee reporting, truancy reporting, graduation, suspensions, historical postings, teacher endorsements, textbook distribution, property internal controls, vehicle marking, and school safety.

“I would like to congratulate each of these school districts and their personnel,” State Auditor Stacey Pickering said. “Our reviews are designed to identify strengths and areas that need improvements and these school districts serve as models for all the districts we reviewed last year.”

The State Auditor’s Office is tasked with reviewing the accuracy and reliability of student and personnel information submitted by school districts to the Mississippi Department of Education through the Mississippi Student Information System (MSIS) in order to determine funding for local school districts.

During the 2012-2013 school year, the Performance Audit Division conducted audits at 46 school districts across Mississippi. Over a three-year period, they will perform these reviews at every school district in the state.


AP: Auditor says Miss. schools violating textbook law

Posted on: August 13th, 2013 by Lisa

JACKSON- Mississippi school systems are routinely violating a state law that says they have to issue a textbook to every student to take home, the state auditor says.

Stacey Pickering said that many districts are only buying enough books for a set to keep in each classroom, which may mean a student can’t take a book home to study. Others are relying on photocopied material, or even in some cases using state-issued sample tests for their main instructional material.

“From our standpoint, what we have found is the vast majority of schools are not compliant with state law,” Pickering said.

For some districts, the problems stem from bad record-keeping or lack of money. But other districts say that in many classes, they’re abandoning the traditional textbook. For example, in lower grades, most districts reviewed by Pickering’s office use “consumables,” soft-bound books that may have worksheets that can be torn out. Many teachers now use a combination of resources including online programs.

Pickering said he wants to meet with school leaders to discuss possible changes to the law.

“If our audits prove districts are not in compliance with the law, I think the question is, is the law reasonable?”

An Associated Press review of 35 compliance audits conducted during the 2012-2013 school year found that more than 19,000 students didn’t have books assigned. Typically, about two-thirds of students sampled in each of those 35 districts didn’t have a book of their own.

Read the full story here.