OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Three representatives from the New Jersey-based nonprofit company EdBuild took a tour of Ocean Springs Upper Elementary School Tuesday morning. The company has been hired by state lawmakers to look at education funding in the State of Mississippi for the coming year.
Lawmakers want to come up with an alternative to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. The program has been in effect for 20 years now, but lawmakers have only fully funded education under the MAEP formula twice.
EdBuild officials interacted with students, and they listened as well. Teachers offered input on the task at hand. With a $2.2 billion K-12 budget in the state, money is always an issue.
"Prioritizing the students that most need those dollars is just as critical an issue as how much is available," said Rebecca Sibilia with EdBuild.
Tuesday, they were looking at how technology is used in the classroom, classroom size, as well as student/teacher ratios. They came away impressed by what they saw in Ocean Springs.
"I wanted them to see that we have a very large school and we do a lot with a little," Principal Susan Dollar said. "We have a large Special Ed population and I wanted them to see how we work them into our everyday classrooms."
One of the concerns expressed by educators across the state over the past few months is that a new EdBuild formula could mean a cut in classroom spending.
EdBuild officials, including Sibilia, say that's not the case.
"There is absolutely no intention on our behalf to make recommendations that in any way cut the amount of money is being provided to schools throughout the state of Mississippi. Our intention is to make recommendations to make sure that every student has the resources they need in order to succeed."
The head of the school district, Superintendent Dr. Bonita Coleman, remains hopeful.
"They've been very responsive to our questions, they've been very open. We're looking forward to a continuing dialog with this process as we go forward in the legislative session," Coleman said.
She added that hopefulness only goes so far.
"For us, as educators, we're always concerned about making sure that the resources actually meet the needs, and of course, we'll be watching that very carefully."
EdBuild officials say they hope to have a new funding formula in place by the end of this year so lawmakers can consider it when they convene in January. Meanwhile, citizens and parents across the state can give their input by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.