In response to a lawsuit that the legislature’s alternative to the Initiative 42 ballot measure was confusing, Hinds county Circuit Court Judge Winston Kidd selected the new title for Initiative 42-A from a list provided by the opponents of 42-A: “Should the Legislature establish and support effective public schools, but not provide a mechanism to enforce that right?”
The new title for 42-A effectively changes the intent of the alternative by stipulating public education as a right (not unlike 42). As summarized by House Democratic Leader Rep. Bobby Moak in support of renaming the alternative, “It was only about the title, because the title is [what] will appear on the ballot when voters go to vote in November.”
The original Initiative 42-A Ballot Title simply asked, “Shall the Legislature be required to provide for the establishment and support of an effective system of free public schools?” The ballot summary for Initiative 42-A remains unchanged: “This constitutional amendment is proposed as a legislative alternative measure to Initiative Measure No. 42 and would require the Legislature to provide, by general law, for the establishment, maintenance and support of an effective system of free public schools.”
The Initiative 42 Ballot Title asks, “Should the State be required to provide for the support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools?” But hidden in the ballot summary which will not be on the ballot, Initiative 42 establishes public education as a fundamental right and grants authority to the chancery courts to determine and enforce adequate funding.
Currently, the state legislature determines how much to fund public schools along with other budget priorities.
Gene Taylor was interviewed by Tuesday morning on WDAM’s News 7 Sunrise program. During the 5-1/2 minute interview Taylor accused incumbent Rep. Steven Palazzo of supporting a cut in Defense spending and unlimited increases in flood insurance rates. Taylor took credit for getting mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles to the troops, and over $21 Billion for post-Katrina relief. Saying the cuts in Defense will directly hurt Camp Shelby, Keesler AFB, the Gulfport Seabee Base, and Huntington-Ingalls Shipyard, the cuts will ultimately hurt our nation’s security.
Taylor thinks that Palazzo’s public outreach has been weak and vows to do a better job. If voted back into office, he’ll restart townhall meetings, work with local industries, restore confidence in government, and read the bills (inferring that Rep. Palazzo does or did not).
“I’ve always been pro-life, I’ve always been pro-gun, I’ve always been for a balanced budget, I’ve always been for a strong national defense; that’s not going to change. I’ve always put what is best for Mississippi ahead of either political party.”
For the entire interview, click WDAM News 7 Sunrise.
“Better Schools, Better Jobs” is seeking a constitutional amendment to require the Mississippi Legislature to fully fund public education according to the MAEP formula. If 107,000 registered voters sign their petition by April 2015, the initiative will go on the ballot for voters to decide.
Adopted in 1997, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program is a formula that determines total district funding. Of the $6 Billion state budget, education consumes $2.4 Billion and is receiving an $85 Million dollar increase in 2015. Fully funding MAEP would require 10-15% more funding. Per The Parents’ Campaign, that increase would have resulted in $2.54M, $7.67M, and $5.23M more for Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson Counties, respectively.
While fully funding education sounds like a good thing, there are several important considerations:
- Local governments are responsible for up to 27% of the MAEP formula. Local officials can always vote to increase the local contribution to their city and county’s schools.
- If you send your children to private school, fully funding MAEP is equivalent to a tax increase. While an actual tax increase may not happen, under the proposed amendment more state tax dollars would be directed away from state services you use to a state service (public school) that you don’t. Education vouchers would change that calculus but the state legislature rejected such an option for just 500 special needs students during the 2014 session.
- The Mississippi Brain Drain Commission reports that the state is a net exporter of college graduates. While MAEP does not fund college and university education, state universities are primarily filled with state students. Therefore state tax dollars are ultimately subsidizing other states’ economies. Improving Mississippi’s economy and job opportunities (and thereby the state and local tax base) is a better way to improve school funding.
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