A petition drive is underway to ensure adequate funding for public schools in Mississippi.
"Just about every school district in the state should be working with this, but registered voters can come by our office and sign the petition," says Newton Municipal School Superintendent, Dr. Virginia Young. She's talking about the Initiative 42 petition, which is circulating around the state.
If the required 107-thousand registered voters' signatures for the petitions are gathered, Initiative 42 will be placed on the ballot next November. Known by some as the "Better Schools, Better Jobs Initiative," it's a measure that will allow Mississippi voters to decide whether or not the state's constitution should be amended to require legislators to gradually phase into fully funding education.
"If we get all of the money that we deserve, and that we are entitled to, we probably would not have to make cuts like this," says Superintendent Young, who is referring to a recent cut that her district made in its bus service. She says the cutback was necessary to help the district address a $151,000 shortage in funds.
Lauderdale County Superintendent, Randy Hodges also supports the petition drive.
"This can help. In our school district, had the Mississippi Adequate Education Program been fully funded since the beginning, we would have received $17 million more dollars. That could have helped our teachers in the classroom with instruction and with smaller class sizes. In a number of ways it makes a great difference," says Hodges.
Mississippi lawmakers passed an Adequate Education Funding Program known as MAEP in 1997. It actually took effect six years later in 2003. Since then legislators have fully funded education twice.
"If we could get voters involved with this petition, it could possibly help fix some of the problems that we're faced with," says David Irby, who is the Transportation Director for the Newton Municipal School District.
The deadline to gather all of the needed signatures for the petition is October 1st.