Deadlines Set in Dispute Over School Funding Initiatives | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Deadlines Set in Dispute Over School Funding Initiatives

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Attorneys have until next week to submit arguments in a legal dispute about school funding initiatives on the November ballot.

The Mississippi Supreme Court on Friday set an April 24 deadline for attorneys to file briefs about whether justices should hear an appeal from legislative leaders.

The citizen-led Initiative 42 would require lawmakers to fund "an adequate and efficient system of free public schools," and it provides that people could appeal to court if funding falls short.

The Republican-led Legislature put an alternative, Initiative 42-A, on the ballot. It originally said lawmakers must fund "an effective system of free public schools."

On April 2, Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd rewrote the title of 42-A to say the Legislature should fund "effective public schools" but to specify there would be no court appeal if lawmakers don't fulfill the financial obligation.

A ballot title is the short description of an initiative that people will see when they vote. The titles for 42 and 42-A were both originally written by the state attorney general's office.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to reject Kidd's decision. They said Kidd overstepped his constitutional authority by rewriting the attorney general's work.

However, it's not clear whether Reeves and Gunn have legal standing to ask the Supreme Court to get involved because state law does not specify that people can appeal a circuit judge's decision to rewrite the ballot title for an initiative.

Kidd became involved in the case after an Oxford mother with children in public school, Adrian Shipman, filed a lawsuit in late March asking him to rewrite the title for 42-A. Shipman said voters could become confused between the ballot titles of the two proposals because they were similarly worded.

The Mississippi Adequate Education Program is a budget formula designed to give schools enough money to meet midlevel academic standards. Legislators have fully funded the formula only two years since it was put into law in 1997.

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