GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and two other top state leaders say they are sounding the alarm for South Mississippi voters about Initiative 42.
The leaders stopped in Gulfport Thursday to explain why they believe risks are too high, especially for schools on the coast, if the initiative passes.
"That is dangerous public policy. What this proposes to do is take the people out of the process and turn it over to a judge," said House Speaker Philip Gunn.
Gunn set the tone of the news conference by pointing out that voting for Initiative 42 means voters would give up their right to have a voice in education policy and funding.
"This is a historical....and a dramatic change in the way government is managed," said Bryant. "Judges do not have the authority and never should have the authority to appropriate tax dollars."
"It's not about funding. It's not about our commitment to public education. It's about power and control," said Lt. Governor Tate Reeves.
Reeves made statements about how passing 42 could mean a loss of millions of dollars for schools in South Mississippi.
"You know who has the biggest risk, Harrison County, Hancock County and Jackson County. Harrison County has the highest assessed value in the state," said Reeves. "What do you think that one judge in Hinds County is going to do when looking at that? He's going to say, 'Y'all are getting too much state money.'"
For supporters of Initiative 42, it's as simple as money for books.
Tara Skelton is a parent volunteer at St. Martin Upper Elementary, as well as a co-founder of grassroots organization "Fed Up with 50th". Skelton is helping with a book fair to raise money to buy 4,000 library books to replace the ones destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
"Most of the books that are in this library are actually donated by other libraries around the country and we have been struggling to catch up since then," said Skelton.
Skelton says Initiative 42 would amend the constitution, and force the state legislature to live up to its promise to fully fund education. It would give the chancery court the power to enforce it.
"We need some change that has some teeth that will force the legislature to either follow its own law, or to write a law they're willing to follow, but to take our schools seriously," said Skelton.
But the state leaders say decisions about whether state lawmakers are doing their job should be made by the people, not a judge.
Voters will choose either Initiative 42 or Initiative 42-A, which does not mention any judicial oversight. Both measures will be on the ballot on November 3.