BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A group that's pushing for Initiative 42 claims some state leaders are using scare tactics to derail the upcoming school funding vote. On Wednesday, members brought their concerns before a very supportive audience in Biloxi.
An advocate for Initiative 42 spoke to hundreds of school superintendents and administrators from across Mississippi. He told them not to lose the momentum, especially after a top Mississippi budget writer told state agencies to expect cuts if the initiative passes.
"I think that's divide and conquer. That's trying to scare other state agencies, and it's succeeding," said Claiborne Barksdale.
Scaring voters. That's what Barksdale claims some state lawmakers were doing when they asked agency heads to brace for 8 percent in budget cuts, if voters say "yes" to Initiative 42 in November.
"These cries that the sky is falling is misleading. The proposal, if adopted, would not call for a tax increase. It would not necessitate cuts in other state agencies," said Barksdale.
Barksdale is one of the biggest backers of Initiative 42, which would force state lawmakers to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.
At a state superintendents' conference, he told the crowd that the proposal would not require immediate full funding. Instead, it would be phased in over seven years through growth in the general fund.
The Mississippi Association of School Superintendents has publicly endorsed Initiative 42. However, the superintendents said since they are attending a professional development convention, they are not allowed to talk to the media about the issue during work hours.
Barksdale said supporters will continue to reach out to voters, and he urged the superintendents to do what they can to rally support for the initiative.
"We're going to face a barrage of opposition, there's no question about that, from the opponents of public schools. So, we've got our work cut out for us, and we need for everybody to be involved," he said.
Initiative 42 supporters say to expect a big media campaign as Election Day nears. They say MAEP has been shortchanged by $1.7 billion over the past seven years.