BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A petition drive could be coming to your child's school district. Supporters of an initiative that would require state lawmakers to put more money into public schools are asking superintendents to help spread the word about the campaign. Their latest appeal for signatures is taking place this week in Biloxi.
Patsy Brumfield is trying to reach every person attending the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents conference in Biloxi. All week, Brumfield and other supporters of the "Better Schools, Better Jobs" initiative will take turns manning the petition drive.
"We're out there sweating down the streets with festivals and churches and we were at graduations in May. So it's been going well, labor intensive, a labor of love actually," said Patsy Brumfield, Communications Director for Better Schools, Better Jobs.
Their initiative would change the state constitution by requiring lawmakers to fully fund public schools through the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. They claim schools in Mississippi have been under funded by $1.5 billion since 2009. In South Mississippi, the figures range from $4.2 million in Pass Christian to $31.7 million in Harrison County.
So far, the group has collected more than 90,000 signatures from across the state. The goal is to gather 110,000 or more signatures from registered voters to put the referendum on the November 2015 ballot.
"We'd like to have 200,000. Some of them are not going to be any good and so we would like to have a good cushion. Plus, 200,000 signatures carry a lot of political muscle with it," said Brumfield.
With school starting early next month, Brumfield is hoping to get teachers and parents to sign-up. So she's giving every superintendent at the conference a packet of petitions to take back to his or her district.
School leaders in Petal are already working on a plan to collect signatures.
"As of now we're $12.9 million dollars under-funded. As you can see, over the course of time, that's a lot of money. So with this funding, moving forward, it will allow us to do things that otherwise we might not be able to do," said Petal Schools Superintendent Dr. Matt Dillon.
The deadline for the petition drive is Labor Day. The group wants all the petitions in by September first so the signatures can be certified. The petitions will then be submitted to the Secretary of State's Office on October first.