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The Battle Over Mississippi School Funding Rumbles On

Meek School of Journalism Professor Bill Rose served as moderator between Rep. Greg Snowden and one of Jackson’s top litigators, Michael Bentley, at the debate, “Battle Over School Funding” at the Overby center.

Note: Education has been a pressing issue on both the National and local level of Government. Jackson Litigator Michael Bentley feels as though Amendment 42 and 42A would push for the power to be in the hands of the public. Rep. Greg Snowden believes it is an issue that should be addressed amongst congress and the courts.

There was quite a showing of eager eyes and interested persons at the “Battle Over School Funding Debate,” held at the Overby center yesterday afternoon. Students, faculty, and interested citizens alike filled in the auditorium to find out what the two sides of the debate concerning Initiative 42 and Alternative 42 would be for the upcoming election.

Professor Chris Sparks said of the issue, “The event today will help clarify my understanding of the the vote. As a mother of a school age boy, I am acutely interested in understanding issues that affect education.”

“It is unclear as to whether or not the House of Representatives and the Senate would rationally decide this for the public,” Bentley said, “Public schooling should remain a priority in the legislature.”

“We’re dealing with a blow to a representative government,” Rep. Snowden quipped. “The actual language… includes nothing about funding. Understand what you’re being asked to. It’s whatever the court says is adequate, which should be the prudent course of action.

The main issue of the subject matter at hand seems to internally point to the amount of funding, or as some have conceded as the ‘lack of funding’ made available to schools, primarily those that are K-12.

“What we’re asking for is adequate funding of Mississippi schools, no tax cuts or increases. Single purpose – to enact the amendment of the constitution of MAEP.”

The Mississippi Legislature passed the Mississippi Adequate Education Program in 1997. This requires state government to fully fund education based on a formula, which has been spread out over seven years. According to the Mississippi Department of Education, it is meant to, “establish adequate current operation funding levels necessary for the programs of each school district to meet a successful level of student performance as established by the State Board of Education using current statistically relevant state assessment data.”

Moderator Rose thoughtfully asked the respondents, “What happens if voters vote down both of the amendments? What would the impact be on Mississippi?

Rep. Snowden replied, “The legislature will continue to push to fund k – 12, moving [Mississippi] in the right direction. Our house bill – every Democrat, every Republican- everyone understood that bill, everyone in that room – realized what a good struggle it was for k-12. It was unanimously adopted. We don’t need an issue 42, we need to decide it within the legislature.”

Bentley’s response: “We will continue the status quo if it goes through the legislature and [Initiative 42] gets shot down… I think measure 42 will change the status quo.”

The ultimate decision will be placed on the Mississippi public during elections, which will be held on November 3, 2015. For more information on the Initiative, or the Proposed Alternative, check out this website.


Sam Mitchell is a HottyToddy.com staffwriter and can be reached at smitche3@go.olemiss.edu.

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