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Mississippi Resolves School-Aid Disparities

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School districts in 24 northern Mississippi counties this month will begin receiving additional state funds to offset financial inequities caused by an 1832 Indian treaty involving the sale of school-trust lands. (See Education Week, Nov. 28, 1984.)

The added funding was approved by the 1985 legislature.

In most of Mississippi's counties and municipalities, a parcel of land known as "16th Section" land historically has been set aside to help fund education. School districts lease out the land to raise revenue.

However, in the 1800's, the state sold the Chickasaw area's school-trust land as part of the Pontotoc Creek Treaty. As a result of the treaty, districts in the Chickasaw area are losing millions of dollars a year in potential revenue.

To date, the state has paid the 49 districts and two agricultural high schools in the Chickasaw area about $62,000 annually, or about $2,704 per district, to make up for the lost lands.

In contrast, school districts in the 58 counties outside the Chickasaw area raised $27.8 million from their 16th-Section land in fiscal 1984, or an average of $216,364 per district, according to Andrew P. Mullins, director of external relations for the state department of education.

Under the new law, the Chickasaw districts will eventually divide $5 million, distributed according to the number of teacher units allocated to each district.

Funding for the current year is $1 million. The bill calls for an additional $1-million appropriation each year to the schools until the maximum of $5 million is reached.

DeSoto County, for example, had received some $3,000 a year under the old formula. It will receive more than $115,000 in additional funds in the first stage of the five-year plan. Eventually, its annual payments will be about $600,000.--lo

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