Good schools are good business for Mississippi. They are the clearest path to better jobs for all our people and a successful economy for our state.
But without adequately funded schools, none of that will happen. We will continue to languish at the bottom of every bad statistic, reinforcing the national viewpoint that Mississippi leaders do not care about over-all prosperity enough to consistently invest in public education.
As a long-time Mississippi businessman, I will vote for Initiative 42 on Nov. 3 to stop this callous disregard for our future, this selfish “just-us” sentiment among the lobbyists who so heavily influence our elected leaders.
This citizens ballot measure No. 42, onto which more than 200,000 Mississippians bravely signed their signatures, would change our state constitution to force the Legislature to abide by its own school-funding law, which it’s pretty much ignored since passage 18 years ago.
Because the Legislature has virtually ignored its own promise to fully support our schools, local governments have been forced to try to make up the difference. Higher local property taxes are the result where local economies are good enough. For the school districts in poor counties, they must try to survive on the “kindness” of their elected lawmakers.
Initiative 42 wouldn’t even be necessary if our state leaders had done their jobs to support public schools. Of course, this funding failure makes no sense to anyone who hears this “we support public education” or “we want better jobs” verbal hypocracy coming out of Jackson.
Here’s what Initiative 42’s proposed constitutional amendment says:
“To protect each child’s fundamental right to educational opportunity, the State shall provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools. The chancery court of this State shall have the power to enforce this section with appropriate injunctive relief.”
Every petition to put Initiative 42 on the ballot carries a lengthy “roadmap” to phase-in funding. It does so to make very clear that no one intends to force agency budgets cuts or to give any politician an excuse to raise taxes.
The amendment makes no reference to this phase-in so that lawmakers may make their own prudent decisions about how to attain this legal obligation. However, it’s very clear that Initiative 42 supporters intend for a multi-year phase-in to be an option, not to upset the state’s financial applecart if immediate full funding isn’t practical.
I’ve long supported national Republican candidates, but I can tell you that Initiative 42 and the fate of our public schools is not a political party issue – not Republican, Democrat or independent – it’s a survival issue for our state.
So, why all this hew and cry from the Jackson politicians about 42? It’s because they want to keep their hands on all the state’s revenues so they can play favorites with the lobbyists who come calling and who can make massive political donations.
It’s the power brokers who want to kill Initiative 42 so that the people’s will can be thwarted.
The evidence could not be clearer: The Legislature turned right around, slapped those petition-signers in the face and – for the first time ever – placed an “alternative” on the ballot to confuse voters and kill both measures. The alternative’s “supporters” admit that purpose and insist they will vote against both measures.
I believe support for Initiative 42 responds to the lesson from a higher power, when it comes to our responsibilities to help make Mississippi a better place.
“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.” – Matthew 25:40.
When we are called to make a difference for our children, it is always the right thing to do.
Please join me in voting for Initiative 42 on Nov. 3.
Wynn Alexander is a Wiggins businessman and life-long resident of South Mississippi. He continues to be involved in civic and community improvement efforts.