Anti-Funders and Wishful Thinking

Hold the phone, folks. We thought Mississippi was hopeless, but there just might be a chance for our kids after all. The Anti-Funders of Mississippi- those who flat-out refuse to fund our public schools to the amount due by law- are close to having real live epiphanies on the subject, if they would just look at their own facts. They say “throwing money at the problem” is wishful thinking. They’re about to realize what wishful thinking really is.

These kinds of opportunities are similar to the “a-ha moments” common to our public schools. They’re instances following months of struggle in which people carefully examine the evidence in front of them and suddenly, the realization hits. Maybe Anti-Funders have never had the time to sit down for a couple of minutes to look for clarity in the education figures they spout to the media. But the logic is right there in their own words.

Take a recent speech by Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves in Vicksburg, as one example. (To be clear on Tate Reeves’ support of public schools, keep in mind he’s one of the two men taking Mississippi’s voters to the Supreme Court so they won’t even have the option of a clear, simple yes/no vote for school funding in November. His actions thus far have deliberately obstructed the will of the people of Mississippi.) Ok. Now, let’s recap his stances on education from Vicksburg, written up by John Surrat in the Vicksburg Post:

  • He brags about new teacher pay raises, making clear his belief in the link between increased spending and increased quality of education.
  • He talks up the school district grading system as a way to make school performance clearer for people to understand, even going as far to say “everybody in our state…knows what to expect from an ‘A,’ and every one of them knows we can do better than a ‘C.’”
  • He extols the virtues of the Third Grade Gate, a way to clear up which students have “learned to read” so they can move on to “read to learn” in higher grades.
  • Finally, he favors public charter schools as a way to provide better education for students whose schools are clearly failing them.

Mr. Reeves is to be commended for wanting more transparency in the education system, and so are any other Anti-Funders who advocate for such. Some of their methods may not all have successful track records in previous states in which they were tried, but clarity is a value we all can agree should be part of the solution. And the Anti-Funders are so close to formulating a clear picture of what’s going on!

If we believe in transparency and accountability like Tate Reeves and the Anti-Funders, we know we want clear solutions for students in schools which are clearly failing according to the funding and expectations placed upon them. We have a clear grading system of A, B, C, D, and F, to know how the schools are doing. Now- if only there was a way for Mississippians to know specifically-clearly- how much funding is necessary to have those schools perform up to those levels- then we would have it all figured out!

Guess what? The Mississippi Adequate Education Program formula does exactly that, specifically- clearly! It lays out exactly how much money each school needs in order to perform up to the very same “C” level which, as our Lieutenant Governor would say, “everyone…knows we can do better than.” And it’s been on the books- as state law- since 1997. The Legislature just usually ignores it!

Here’s the bottom line: When it comes to public school funding, if you believe in transparency, accountability, and equity for all students under the law, you cannot simply ignore the mathematical underpinning of the whole system. It’s not magic. It’s not smoke and mirrors. It’s simple arithmetic.

Expecting “C” level schools from “C” level funding? That’s called accountability.

Expecting “C” level schools from “F” level funding? Now that’s what ya call wishful thinking.

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