State initiative works to fund schools through constitutional am - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

State initiative works to fund schools through constitutional amendment

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LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) -

The state legislature has failed to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program 15 of the past 17 years, and now there is an effort in place that hopes to end the excuses.

Better Schools, Better Jobs is an initiative to create a constitutional amendment that requires the full funding of MAEP each year.

"It's very frustrating that the legislature continues to cut and cut at k-12 education, when in 1997 they promised to do exactly the opposite," said Better Schools organizer Patsy Brumfield.

The idea behind the initiative is to use 25 percent of Mississippi's new economic growth money to fund MAEP. Once the campaign receives at least 107,000 signatures from across the state, the issue will be placed on the 2015 general election ballot. It is then up to the voters to decide if this will become an amendment to the constitution.

"The fact that they have failed to do this something like 15 out of 17 years is nothing but frustrating, to the public, to business owners who are relying on the education system to produce well educated workers," said Brumfield. "It's just frustrating for everybody. It's kind of hard to understand."

Lamar County Superintendent Ben Burnett said the lack of MAEP money to his district has hurt their budget over the years.

"We've gotten into the culture where we just know we're not going to have extra money, and we've gotten pretty good at making do with what we have," said Burnett.

Lamar County schools has been under funded by nearly 23 million dollars over the past six years. Burnett said that is money that could have been used in a number of ways, from paying for the new school building at Longleaf Elementary, to giving teachers a percentage raise.

"That's really the difference that we've made up, is just by not having as many employees, which has been difficult because during that time, we've grown by almost 2,000 students," explained Burnett.

To learn more about Better Schools, Better Jobs, visit http://www.betterms.org/.

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