Forum discusses differences between public school funding initiatives

Forum discusses differences between public school funding initiatives

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The years-long battle to fully fund public education in the state will finally reach the ballot on November 3.

Supporters of the citizen-sponsored Initiative 42 are upset that it has to take a constitutional amendment to get the legislature to follow its own law: The Mississippi Adequate Education Program that was passed in 1997.

"They've never given their own plan a chance to succeed," said Jarrius Adams, a freshman at Ole Miss and supporter of Initiative 42. "They're saying it's going to cut budgets, raise taxes. It's like having a car, not putting gas it in it but complaining that it won't run. It's ridiculous."

Adams spoke at the forum Thursday night that drew hundreds of educators, parents and business people to Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport.

While the state law mandates funding, the constitution does not. Additionally, Initiative 42 allows chancery courts to be able to sue the state if funding falls short.

However, that information doesn't set well with opponents who support the Legislative version  that rejects any judicial enforcement; Initiative 42A

"This constitutional amendment in my opinion is a wrong step because it puts the control of appropriating of our tax dollars, takes it away from our elected officials and puts it in the hands of a judge in one part of our state," said Frank Corder, a former Pascagoula city councilman and supporter of Initiative 42A.

Adams said, "I'm just a kid, but I know if you don't break the law, you will never have to go to court."

The state has fully funded the MAEP only twice since it was passed, the latest was in 2008.

Initiative 48-A offers no funding mechanism. Initiative 48, however, has proposed a phase-in funding proposal across several years using new money from projected economic growth with no new taxes and no cuts from other agencies.

Both Initiatives will be on the ballot, but that's a battle Patsy Brumfield with 42 for Better Schools is ready to fight.

"Initiative 42 is the real and only way we are going to change our constitution to get full funding for our schools," she said. "The alternative that the legislature passed is a trick. It is a fake initiative and all it does is keep the power with the legislature."

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