Posts Tagged ‘education’

New Legislation Now In Effect

Posted on: July 8th, 2013 by Lisa

JACKSON- On July 1, numerous bills passed by the Mississippi legislature during the 2013 session became law. Included in that was the following legislation supported by the Office of State Auditor:

Senate Bill 2625: Public officers and employees; revise punishment for embezzlement and restrict government hiring of felons.

Under this new law, an individual who has been convicted or pled guilty to stealing public funds in the state of Mississippi may not be employed by the state or any county, municipality or any other political subdivision. On numerous occasions, officials have stolen from one government agency only to then be employed by another agency at a later time.

House Bill 1530: School attendance and absenteeism; standardize for compulsory attendance law & ADA calculations under MAEP.

Under this new law, schools will now have a standardized definition for attendance and absenteeism for calculations under the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) formula.

Now, a student will be considered absent if he or she is not present at school for a minimum of 63 percent of the instructional day. Currently, school attendance policies vary from district to district, with some having high expectations of attendance and others which have little or no expectations.

New Legislation Raises Student Expectations & Increases Accountability

Posted on: May 1st, 2013 by Lisa

Last week, Governor Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1530 into law. This is an important bill and I appreciate the legislature for their action on this issue. With this new law, schools will now have a standardized definition for attendance and absenteeism for calculations under the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) formula.

Under the law, a student will be considered absent if he or she is not present at school for a minimum of 63 percent of the instructional day. Currently, school attendance policies vary from district to district, with some having high expectations of attendance and others which have little or no expectations.

Besides raising expectations, and therefore achievement levels of students, this is also important because the Average Daily Attendance (ADA) calculation is the basis of the MAEP formula and the key determinant of the base student cost. Previously, it was non-standardized and therefore, inequitable and unauditable. This will help bring additional accountability to the process of funding our public schools.

After receiving complaints from parents and teachers regarding school attendance and instruction, our Auditors recently performed an unannounced headcount of students at districts throughout the state. They were there to test the accuracy of the attendance data reported to the State, check attendance policies related to when a student is counted present/absent during the day, check the level of absenteeism, and observe typical activities, such as whether instruction is taking place.

Findings from our Auditors included:

  • Just 17 of 47 districts were able to account for all of their enrolled students
  • Approximately 75 percent of the student body was present at the time of the headcount
  • Instruction or instruction related activities were taking place at 35 of the 47 selected high schools
  • Only 8 high schools audited had policies requiring students to be in attendance 50 percent or more of the day
  • Most of the other 39 schools count a student present as long as they show up for any part of the day

You can view a full summary of their findings here.

Again, I applaud the legislature for their action on this legislation and in helping to raise expectations for our school children.

Stacey E. Pickering
State Auditor

MAEP: Bringing Accountability To Education Spending

Posted on: February 8th, 2013 by Lisa

On January 29, State Auditor Stacey Pickering spoke to the House Appropriations Committee where he announced that he could not verify the Mississippi Adequate Education Program for this year based on the lack of reliability and validity of the data provided by the Department of Education.

Auditor Pickering then wrote a letter to elected officials on February 5 formally stating his decision, along with an explanation and recommendations.

Recommendations from the Auditor’s office to increase accountability with education spending:

  • Any statewide equity funding formula should provide standardized, auditable elements, which result in equitable distribution of state funds. Presently, the Average Daily Attendance is the basis of the MAEP formula and the key determinant of the base student cost but it is inequitable and un-auditable. OSA recommends a standardized definition of Average Daily Attendance that uniformly accounts for daily attendance, regardless of the schedule, format, or the length of day at school.
  • OSA recommends defining “at-risk” for MAEP funding and accountability purposes based on more accepted and auditable indicators than free lunch counts. Identifying and tracking at-risk students and targeting programs around the reasons students are at-risk would better allow districts and the MDE to study trends and to develop and refine the best programs that lead to at-risk student success and achievement.
  • OSA’s audits have shown disturbing trends of non-compliance and of not providing required textbooks to students, as required under the law. OSA proposes adjusting the law to better provide funding for relevant learning materials and further, in tested subjects, requiring that curriculum and standardized tests be aligned to take advantage of higher standards of teaching using more than just test prep materials.
  • There is presently no oversight responsibility on laws regarding transportation funding. OSA proposes reverting to previous law requiring MDE oversight of the funds they request as part of the formula. Additionally, OSA recommends that MDE be required to take into account road miles, road conditions, bus conditions, etc. when distributing funding.

This is the second time in four years that Auditor Pickering has been unable to certify the MAEP request received from the Department of Education.

Additional documents:

Mississippi Politics: Democrats support Pickering’s MAEP push

Posted on: January 31st, 2013 by Lisa

Politics does make strange bedfellows sometimes. The Mississippi Democratic Trust has issued these statements on the problems Republican State Auditor Stacey Pickering has pointed out with data/accountability in the MAEP education funding formula:

Democrats in the Mississippi Legislature agree with recent findings by Mississippi’s State Auditor about problems with education reporting by local districts. 

“A few years ago, Democrats in the legislature gave the Auditor the authority to look into daily attendance reports submitted by school districts.  We did this to bring transparency to the process and because we suspected that with no uniform policy for reporting daily attendance, our school district reports had become riddled with inaccuracies,” said Rep. Cecil Brown (D-Jackson).
 
In an effort to bring a greater measure of accountability and transparency to the process, Democrats have submitted a plan that would require superintendents to certify data that is submitted to the state.  House Bill 121 sponsored by Rep. Brown would impose significant penalties on superintendents who submit faulty reports. 
 
Rep. Brown said, “Our plan requires superintendents to put their name on the dotted line before they submit a report to the state.  There’s too much riding on the accuracy of these reports to allow school districts to submit unsigned records.” 
 
With respect to the penalties portion of the bill. Brown added, “Any superintendent who submits a bad report at the expense of tax payer dollars deserves to be removed from their post and prevented from representing one of our districts in the future.” 

Daily Ledes: Changes To MAEP Gain Traction

Posted on: January 31st, 2013 by Lisa

State Auditor Stacey Pickering may have succeeded where few other state leaders have before: Making substantive changes in the way the Mississippi Adequate Education Plan is funded.

Granted, the formula will stay the same, but at least one key data point is likely to be amended.

Pickering outlined his concerns to lawmakers on Tuesday, and there seems to be strong support for creating a statewide definition for average daily attendance.

As it stands now, each school district – and in some cases each school – can choose their own definition of ADA. Some require a student to be there until a certain time, while others require that the student just show up and be counted during the first period.

Of course, the higher a district’s average daily attendance, the more likely they are to receive more funds according to the formula. Not having a statewide definition leaves it open for some districts to “game the system,” something Pickering and others say is happening.

Other recommendations, such as adopting the federal definition for students who can receive free and reduced lunch, would also help bring more accountability to the formula.

A byproduct of such changes, a lawmaker told me, is that with more accountability in the formula it would be harder for the Legislature to not fully fund MAEP on the basis that they felt the formula was flawed.

Link: http://blogs.clarionledger.com/samrhall/2013/01/30/changes-to-maep-gain-traction/