Bypass the Legislature on MAEP, Medicaid LGBT Rights

An organization called Better Schools¾tter Jobs recently filed paperwork to start the process of getting a statewide referendum. As Jackie Mader of The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit education news service, reports this week (see page 8), the group aims to collect the signatures of 107,000 registered voters by Oct. 1, in hopes of putting a long-ignored issue to the people in 2015: Should the full funding of public K-12 education be a constitutional requirement?

It's an odd thing to even have to ask. In 1997, our Legislature created the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, a mind-numbingly complicated formula that considers factors ranging from average daily attendance to how many kids qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

In the past six years alone, under a Republican-led Senate and, until 2012, a Democratic-led House of Representatives, MAEP has been shorted by more than $1 billion.

For the past few years, lawmakers have pointed to everything from the Great Recession that shrank the state treasury to questioning the validity of the formula itself as excuses for not giving schools the minimum amount of funding needed to operate.

The most democratic solution to the problem would be to vote out the people who, as far as we can tell, haven't failed to meet any of other of the state's obligations, such as paying state employees (including legislators' salaries and per diem) and even spent a little extra on tax breaks for automobile plants and Rankin County outlet malls.

Unfortunately, people tend to vote to keep their representatives so the same folks keep coming back every term, exacerbating the problem. We not only support a statewide constitutional amendment to fund public schools in Mississippi, but believe it is also time for citizens of Mississippi to look toward the ballot initiative as a tool to circumvent the do-nothing Mississippi Legislature. In addition to MAEP funding, why not also take the issue of Medicaid expansion or protecting the rights of LGBT people to patronize businesses without fear of discrimination directly to the people as well?

Of course, there are risks—the current constitutional same-sex marriage ban, voter ID requirement and embarrassing Mississippi flag are products of such referenda. But putting the question directly to voters is the reason why Personhood continually fails, legislative attempts to roll back abortion rights notwithstanding (see page 10).

Sadly, at this point, letting citizens decide—even if we don't agree with their decision—seems less risky than leaving the most important issues facing Mississippi up to the Legislature.

Comments

Turtleread 5 months, 1 week ago

The opposing argument would be because voters are not always right as history has shown; however they are in charge. Since the Mississippi Constitution was last revised in 1890, I wonder why a constitutional convention has never been called to consider revision.

As far the K-12 education funding goes, I say by all means, yes, I would add my name to the petition for full constitutional funding. After all, what is the main purpose and activity of states? Education of the youth of this nation.

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js1976 5 months, 1 week ago

"and even spent a little extra on tax breaks for automobile plants and Rankin County outlet malls."

The state has spent nothing when offering tax breaks to entice development. This is a concept that many have a difficult time grasping.

In regards to voting out the "same folks", I couldn't agree more. Unfortunately this would include a laundry list of represenatives from the capital city as well. I have no vote when it comes to the represenatives in Jackson, but it will be unlikely that I will cast my vote for Bryant again. I just hope the state can offer up a good Democratic canidate to attract the votes.

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Turtleread 5 months, 1 week ago

I believe the Governor is term limited to two terms of four years each, which is why Barbour scuttled back to Washington and his lobbying firm where the "big" money was when his time was up. You are right about some Jackson reps. and senators, but the Dems keep putting up very weak candidates. Even the Green Party has a better platform and candidates than some that the Dems put up. For instance, their Senate candidate against Thad Cochran was a US Rep. that was known to be a "blue dog" Democrat, which means that from half to most of the time the party could not rely on his vote. Well, why send him up there then? At least with Thad in there the state has seniority working for it.

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js1976 5 months, 1 week ago

"I believe the Governor is term limited to two terms of four years each,"

Correct, which mean he will have the chance at one more term in office. I don't think the Dems can offer up anyone that will remove him from the seat.

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Turtleread 5 months ago

True, one more term. And possibly the only person in the state who could challenge him would be Jim Hood; however, I believe Mr. Hood has already ruled that out.

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