Mississippi voters may get the opportunity to decide whether state lawmakers should always fund the public schools. MPB's Paul Boger reports on a effort to make funding for education a constitutional mandate.
The state legislature has not fully funded the Mississippi Adequate Education Formula since 2008. Leaving the program that's designed to appropriate money to Mississippi's public school system nearly 1.5 billion dollars under-funded. Now, a newly formed organization has filed a measure with the Secretary of State's Office to add a proposed amendment to next year's ballot that would make funding the MAEP a constitutional mandate. Patsy Brumfield is with Better Education Equals Better Jobs.
"The Legislature does not feel compelled to fully support public education as it promised to do 17 years ago." said Brumfield. "The public [has] just gotten frustrated, and that really the last recourse we had was this constitutional amendment process.
Lawmakers have said the recession and budget shortfalls forced them to cut funding to public schools. House Appropriations Chair Herb Frierson of Poplarville is hopeful MAEP will get full funding over the next few years.
"They took a tremendous hit during the recession." said Frierson. "I'm not trying to grow their budgets, I just want to get them back up to that 2008 level of appropriation. I think that would be huge. That would be close to full funding for MAEP, if not full funding. I think that can be done over a three to four year time."
Under current law, legislators are legally bound to fund the public schools annually. Jackson lawyer Luther Munford filed the paperwork with the Secretary of State's office. He says there are no repercussions if the state doesn't pay for public education.
"It'd give the court the authority to order the state to provide an adequate system of free public schools." said Munford. "We want the ability to go to court and make the legislature fund the schools properly."
Before the issue can appear on the ballot, the group must first get 107 thousand registered voters to sign a petition.