Petition Calls for Fully Funded Public Education in Mississippi

By  | 

Jackson, Miss. Public education could be on the ballot when you go to the polls next year.

A petition is circulating around the state of Mississippi that would force lawmakers to uphold a promise. The current state law says the legislature should fully fund public education, according to a formula known as MAEP. That stands for the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. Lawmakers have only done that twice since it was created in 1997.

"Our position is this," Madison County Superintendent Ronnie McGehee says. "You want better schools, let's fund them and see what happens."

That "school of thought" is quickly circulating across the state this month in the form of a new ballot initiative. McGehee says they're doing what they can to spread the word.

"We've been asked to obtain at least 1,000 signatures and I believe we can do that in house relatively easy," McGehee adds.

The non-profit Better Schools, Better Jobs is the group behind the proposed constitutional amendment. It would require the legislature to gradually phase into fully funding MAEP in the years where revenue is up.

"In the last 8 years, we figure we've lost 48 million dollars," McGehee explains. "6 million dollars a year on the average that we should receive if you fully fund MAEP."

Madison County and the Pearl School District are two of the districts using end of the year awards days to collect signatures.

"Not talked to many folks that feel like our schools are being over funded," Pearl Schools Superintendent Raymond Morgigno says. "Most everyone knows that it has been tough"

The superintendent estimates Pearl loses about two million every time MAEP is underfunded.

"Local governments, we've had to adjust over the years because of the shortfall from the state," Morgigno points out.

House Education Chairman John Moore isn't sold on the idea of the mandate for the legislature.

"People need to understand that the legislature does not have a printing press," Moore says. "We try to budget the resources we have without imposing taxes on the people of the state of Mississippi but this will take that out of our hands."

The ballot initiative says the issue could be sent to a chancery judge if the legislature fails to meet the requirements. The group has until October 1st to gather more than 100,000 signatures.