In the past seven years, public schools in Mississippi have been shortchanged by more than $1.5 billion in funding. Now, state legislators are trying to cripple a voter initiative aimed at fixing that disparity.
The state legislature has only fully funded the state's school budget formula, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP), twice since it was created in 1997. So for the past year, the Better Schools, Better Jobs campaign worked to gather nearly 200,000 signatures to put an initiative on the ballot next November that would require the state simply to follow its own law and fully fund MAEP.
Better Schools, Better Jobs got the required number of signatures to put their initiative on the ballot, but this week conservative legislators moved to stymie the campaign by passing an alternative proposal that will put a second, competing initiative on the ballot and, consequently, making it unlikely either initiative will get the votes it needs to pass.
The alternative proposal is a devastating hit to the organizers who have worked so hard over the past year to illustrate the harm of underfunding schools.
From the Hechinger Report:
"Dick Molpus, a former Democratic secretary of state and longtime education advocate in Mississippi, denounced the House amendment as 'an attempt to circumvent the voter’s voice,' and effectively kill the effort to get more resources in the state’s cash-strapped schools, which post some of the lowest test scores in the U.S.
'We can’t afford textbooks, buildings are crumbling and the student teacher ratio is out the roof,’' Molpus said. 'A good number of our legislators believe our future is with an educated populace, but there is always a voice that could care less, and wants to sell it for cheap labor and low wages and poor education.'”
Read more about the ballot initiative here.