MFP: Can You “Fix” a Formula You Don’t Understand?

Apr 17, 2017

For decades, lawmakers have complained about how complicated the state school funding formula – the MFP -- is, so we recently asked State Superintendent John White if he could explain it.

“The Minimum Foundation Program is a formula that uses state and local tax dollars to make sure that every child’s education is funded,” White says. “And it provides more money in places that are poorer, and it provides more money where the kids have greater levels of need.”

It starts with a base per-pupil amount.

“There is an amount of money for every child – from the state, about $4000.”

Federal dollars are added in for certain categories of students.

“The federal government’s funding is all for students with disabilities, for low-income kids, and for English language-learners,” White says.

Each local school district’s contribution is calculated, as well.

“Local communities have different property values, different ability to generate their own taxes, and so the state kicks in more in those environments that have less ability to fund their own systems.”

With 69 school districts and some 700,000 students, it’s easy to see why the formula gets so complicated.

The MFP is also one of the largest state general fund expenditures in the budget, and, as Appropriations chairman Cameron Henry notes, lawmakers have no real control over it.

“As relates to the Legislature’s authority over the MFP, we either can vote that up or down. We don’t actually get to change it, adjust it,” Henry complains. “We get that from BESE and then we either say we like the number or we don’t like the number. And that’s $3.4 billion that we, in essence, don’t have any control over, other than an up or down vote.”

This legislative session, Henry has filed HB 330, which would let the legislature alter the formula – reducing the per pupil base amount which comes from the state general fund.