Debate continues on whether an amendment guaranteeing adequate funding of public schools should be added to the Mississippi Constitution. The discussion is taking place across the state, even among some top education officials.
The Mississippi Board of Education has not taken an official position on the proposed amendment, but the initiative has sparked debate among the board. One proposal submitted by the group Better Schools, Better Jobs would require lawmakers to provide quote "adequate and efficient" levels of funding for public schools. A different version suggested by lawmakers last week calls for funding of "effective" public schools. Wayne Gann of Corinth is the board's former Chair and a current at-large representative.
"I think public education ought to be adequately funded across this state, and I don't believe it is being adequately funded at the moment," says Gann. "I would hope that folks would discharge their responsibilities but if it takes putting it as a constitutional amendment then so be it."
Gann's opinion appears to be common among the nine members of the board. However, some are unsure of whether lawmakers should be required to guarantee certain funding levels for any state program. Johnny Franklin of Bolton was appointed by Governor Phil Bryant last year.
"What do you do when the revenue drops out?" asks Franklin. "Those guys don't control revenue. They control expenditures, but they don't control revenue. That comes in is through taxes and blah, blah, blah. So, it would put yourself out in a box to where no matter what comes in you got to give a certain amount of that. We going to turn prisoners loose? We going to quit doing a lot of other things?"
Despite the differences in opinion, all sides agree that they want what's best for Mississippi's children.