Schools have enough to deal with

Published 10:07 am Friday, July 7, 2017

During last week’s initial review of next year’s $84 million balanced budget for the Vicksburg Warren School District, an interesting statistic appeared in one of the pages.

Laid out among the figures and graphs was an interesting debate between two very similar — but dramatically different — acronyms. In that debate, between ADA and AMA, is the potential for a significant amount of lost money for our school district, and districts throughout the state.

ADA stands for average daily attendance, while AMA stands for average daily membership, or enrollment.

Funding from the state is allocated based in part on the average daily attendance of schools, rather than the number of students on the rolls.

The average for each system is determined based on the attendance averages from the first two months of school.

For instance, in fiscal year 2017, which ended June 30, the system’s enrollment was 8,145, while the average attendance recorded for the system was 7,167, a difference of 978. That is just shy of 88 percent attendance, cutting the system 12 percent of what they could have received in funding.

While the list of problems with this type of funding method is long and political, it seems at its core illogical and unfair.

When the system enrolls students ahead of a school year, it hires teachers, support staff and purchases equipment based on that number. Why then would you penalize a system when 12 percent of the students do not show up?

And are we assuming the same 12 percent will not show up throughout the year? No, the number fluctuates, which at times puts pressure on the system to now account for more students than they have been funded to support.

Our public school systems — from the elementary level through our universities — are already cut to the bone and beyond. Administrators at every level are asked to do more with less and then are challenged to do more when results do not meet expectations.

State legislators would be wise to understand that investment in our schools is an investment in Mississippi’s future and provides a future workforce worthy of any industry and corporation.

While we might not be able to get better funding from our state leaders, at least we should expect fair funding.

Using illogical and unfair statistics to trim a dollar here and a dollar there is no way to invest and no way to treat our children.