Initiative 42 or 42A or neither? That’s question voters face Nov. 3

Published 8:48 am Saturday, October 31, 2015

With the general election Tuesday, there is perhaps no more anticipated ballot measure than the initiatives 42 and 42A.

The pitched, partisan battle over the outcome has been lengthy and complex, leaving many confused as to what the initiative actually means.

Proponents of Initiative 42 say students are shortchanged because lawmakers don’t provide as much as Mississippi’s school funding formula demands. The measure would require the state to provide “an adequate and efficient system of public schools,” and allow people to sue over shortfalls.

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Republican leaders oppose the measure, saying it could give a judge control over much of the state budget. They placed an alternative on the ballot to require “effective” schools, without stipulating a right to sue. They’re urging people to reject the amendment, and then vote for the alternative, 42A, to insure Initiative 42’s defeat.

For it to pass, voters must support the overall change, and then vote for Initiative 42.

While not technically a partisan matter, Initiative 42 has been heavily supported by Democrats and heavily opposed by Republicans.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn joined each other in a series of statewide press conferences to express their unified opposition to the education equity funding initiative that proposes to fundamentally change how education funding and policies are generated.

State Rep. Alex Monsour, R-Vicksburg, said he is totally against Initiative 42.

“It’s up to each individual voter in each county to have their right of representation on education,” he said. “If this initiative goes into play, a judge in Hinds County is going to make decisions for the constituencies that I represent for their school district. That’s not representative of Warren County for the legislature to be taken out of the decision-making process.”

Supporters of the initiative have made claims the judge’s decision can be appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court, which is elected by the people of Mississippi, but Monsour said this option will end up costing taxpayers more money.

“Yeah, there’s an appeals process, but why should the people of Mississippi have to foot the bill for an appeals process when it’s done in the House and the Senate instead of having to go through a judge and we spend more of their tax dollars having to fight lawsuit after lawsuit,” he said. “To my conservative constituents, if you’re going to leave it up to a judge, are you satisfied with the rulings that have come down recently where we thought the conservative ruling was there and look what happened. I don’t think people want to leave it up to the judiciary system when they have a representative and a senator that they elected to go over to Jackson and represent them.”

Monsour said some people may want to see more funding in education, but it’s not as bad as it used to be.

“I’ve been involved on both sides,” he said. “I was there when the Democrats were in charge, and I’m there now while we’re in charge, and I can tell you this, they didn’t fully fund it. Now that we’ve been in charge, we’ve put more money to get as close as we can to fully funding education, and at the same time, we’re balancing the budget.”

Supporters of the initiative say Republicans are resorting to scare tactics to try to take the focus away from schools that need money, and the cumulative $1.7 billion shortfall in funding below formula-demanded amounts since the last time it was fully funded.

“These politicians ramble on like zombies about judges and lawsuits, but they’ve never understood that students are those who matter,” Patsy Brumfield, spokeswoman for 42 For Better Schools, wrote in an email.

“When they finish their statewide tour attacking public education, maybe they can get back to work to make a difference for Mississippi.”

State Rep. Oscar Denton, D-Vickburg, said he hopes the initiative will pass.

“I am for it because I think it’s time we do something for education for our children,” he said. “As a matter of fact, it’s past time.”

Denton called this the people’s initiative because they’re the ones who brought forward the issue.

“We need to do a better job of funding education,” he said. “We are shorting our children when we do this. It’s time for Mississippi to get off of the bottom of everything.”

Denton also pointed to Initiative 42A as a confusing issue for many voters.

“Initiative 42A came about from the Republican party in my opinion to confuse the voters so the initiative will not pass,” he said. “Everyone I have spoken to is confused. This is the first time I think in the history of this constitution that the legislators put a referendum against the people.”

Denton said if anyone has any questions about the initiative they would like to discuss, they should call him on his cell phone at 601-529-3391.

Vicksburg Warren School Board President Bryan Pratt said as the president of the board he is unable to use his use his position to talk about the issue due to a legal gray area, although, he did say the issue is important.

“The education of our children is very important issue in our state,” he said. “There are people who are passionate on both sides of the issue. I would hope everyone does their homework and makes their own decisions.”

Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent Chad Shealy echoed Pratt in encouraging voters to do their homework.

“Education is the most important economic driver for our state and for our city,” he said. “I hope everyone does their homework and does what’s going to benefit our state.”


The Associated Press contributed to this report.