Lawmakers, parents and members of Mississippi's education community are coming out in support of a constitutional amendment that will guarantee adequate funding for the state's public school system. MPB's Paul Boger reports.
When state lawmakers passed the Mississippi Adequate Education Formula in 1997, it was part of an effort to ensure that every child in the state gets a decent education. However, since it's adoption, the state has only fully funded the program twice. State Representative Cecil Brown was chair of the House Education Committee in 2008 -- the last time MAEP received full funding.
"I think the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, the basic funding formula for K-12, funding that [and] catching up on the funding of that over time is one of the most important things we can do in this state." said Brown. "It seems to me when we ask our teachers to educate our kids, to perform well in the classroom, without giving them adequate resources; it's like asking somebody to dig a ditch, but you don't give them a pick or a shovel."
That's why public education advocates are calling for a constitutional amendment that would force Mississippi lawmakers to adequately fund education every year. Patsy Brumfield is with Better Schools Better Jobs -- one of the groups pushing for the mandate.
"We did an interesting poll some, few months ago and 70 percent of the registered voters we talked to said they didn't believe the legislature would ever fully fund education and do it properly." said Brumfield. "So they said, the only reason, the only way to make this work is a constitutional amendment. Well, that's what we're doing."
Under the mandate, Mississippians may sue the state if they feel lawmakers did not appropriate enough funds to public schools. Kim Merchant is the Education Law Director at the Mississippi Center for Justice.
"It's just another mechanism, just basically saying 'Look, you guys are not doing what needs to be done." Merchant said. "It's just another weapon in the arsenal of the approach to try and put pressure on the legislature to give the money that necessary of education."
Before the issue can appear on the ballot, it must first get 107 thousand registered voters to sign a petition.