Denton supports schools initiatives

Published 10:57 am Thursday, August 20, 2015

District 55 state Rep. Oscar Denton, D-Vicksburg, threw his support behind a citizen-led school funding initiative that will appear on the Nov. 3 ballot.

“The people took it upon themselves to get names … to be able to put the referendum on the ballot. I stand with the people,” Denton told members of Vicksburg Lions Club during their lunch meeting Wednesday.

Initiative 42, also known as the Better Schools, Better Jobs Initiative, got on the ballot through citizens’ petitions, and its supporters say it’s a way to force lawmakers to fully fund an education budget formula that has been ignored all but two years it was put into law in 1997.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Denton, while encouraging people to support the measure, said voters, regardless of their opinion, need to turn out at the polls Nov. 3. He cited a fewer than 30 percent turnout in the August primary, calling it “pathetic.”

“If you feel like education needs money, you need to vote for Initiative 42,” Denton said. “If you are satisfied with the way things are, you can vote against it.”

The ballot title for Initiative 42 says the state must provide “an adequate and efficient system of free public schools.” It also stipulates that people could sue the state if education funding falls short.

State Sen. Alex Monsour, R-Vicksburg, told the Lions Club earlier this year that the initiative would allow essentially allow a single chancery court judge in Hinds County to control education funding.

“Not only is that judge going to be able to tell you what money goes to what county and how they are going to spend it, they can all tell you what they are going to teach, and how they are going to teach it, whether it be sex education or whatever. The judge is going to have final outcome on education. The word education is going to be taken out of the Legislature,” Monsour told Lions Club in May.

The Republican-controlled Legislature put Initiative 42-A on the same ballot as an alternative. The original title for42-A, written by Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood, said lawmakers must fund “effective free public schools.”

Supporters of 42 filed a lawsuit early this year to seek a new description of 42-A, arguing voters could become confused and not know how to choose between the two similarly worded proposals.

Denton agreed saying 42-A was confusing and unnecessarily complicated.

“This is the first time in the history of this state that the legislators put up another referendum directly opposed to the people,” Denton said.

In April, Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd rewrote the title of 42-A to say the Legislature should fund effective schools, but to specify that there is no mechanism for enforcement, meaning that the Legislature didn’t say people could file a lawsuit if funding falls short.

The Mississippi Supreme Court later ruled Kidd overstepped his bounds.