Ballot Initiative aims to fully fund public education - - Jackson, MS

Ballot Initiative aims to fully fund public education

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Public education could be on the ballot when you go to the polls next year. A petition is circulating around the state 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.They've only done that twice since it was created in 1997. The people are using the petition as an attempt to hold them accountable.

"Our position is this," said Madison County Superintendent Ronnie McGehee. "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," said McGehee.

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," explained McGehee. "$6 million a year on the average that we should receive if you fully fund MAEP."

Madison County and the Pearl School Districts 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," described Pearl Superintendent Raymond Morgigno. "Most everyone knows that it has been tough."

Morgigno estimates Pearl loses about two million dollars every time MAEP is under funded.

"Local governments, we've had to adjust over the years because of the shortfall from the state," he said.

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," said Moore. "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 first to gather more than 100,000 signatures.

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