“How can legislators get away with breaking the law by refusing to fund public schools like the state law requires?”
Since I began advocating for strong public schools as a volunteer in 2004, I’ve been asked that question repeatedly, by hundreds – maybe thousands – of you, most recently just yesterday. Well, funny you should ask…
The light at the end of the tunnel
Parents are fed up with politicians who make campaign promises to provide adequate school funding and then drop that commitment like a hot potato the minute they are sworn into office. So, parents and teachers and community leaders are taking matters into their own hands with a constitutional amendment that simply will require legislators to follow the existing state law and adequately fund our public schools.
That’s the bright light you see at the end of the school funding tunnel. It’s real accountability for legislators who promise one thing and do another when it comes to our children’s education.
The bright light is an amendment that will make legislators accountable to the courts and the public for following the law.
More than 100,000 signatures must be collected on petitions just to get the amendment on the ballot for voters to decide. If you haven’t signed a petition yet, there is one near you just waiting for your signature. Click here to see a list of places, by county, where you can sign a petition. And be sure to ask your legislators to sign, too.
Politicians are already wringing their hands
We are starting to hear the wail of the powers that be – the folks whose top priority is hanging onto their power, the power to take our tax dollars and use them however they want.
No kidding. A few of our elected officials are opposing the amendment, and the best argument they can come up with is that, if they continue to refuse to follow the school funding law, the courts would have the authority to enforce it. They say this would diminish their authority.
Well, yes, if they insist on ignoring the law, the courts will make them follow it. Which is exactly what parents and teachers and public school supporters of all stripes have been wanting all along.
Other elected officials say adequately funding public schools would cost too much – but we know that just isn’t true. More than enough funding is available right now to fully fund K-12 education. Legislators simply haven’t been willing to invest it in our children’s education.
To be fair…
Many of our elected officials – maybe even most – are committed to adequate school resources. Many have fought for years for better school funding, and they support the amendment. Some have already signed the petition that is required to get the amendment on the ballot.
Our challenge to every legislator and elected official is to make our children a priority and sign the petition. Snap a photo as you sign, and share it with your constituents via Twitter, Facebook, etc. Challenge your colleagues to do the same.
A separate issue: MAEP lawsuit a concern
There is currently a move afoot to sue the State of Mississippi for the $1.5-billion that school districts have been shorted since 2008. While this money certainly is owed to schools, this particular lawsuit is a very bad idea. It is not possible for the state to pay such a significant amount at one time; a court ruling requiring back payment of $1.5-billion would bankrupt our state and would make it nearly impossible for legislators to fully fund schools moving into the future – which is what our children need and deserve.
But the very worst aspect of this case is the corresponding attorneys’ fees. The attorneys are asking for up to 25% of damages. Were every school district to sign on to this case, the attorneys’ fees would amount to well over $300-million – far more than enough to have fully funded the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) for the current year.
We at The Parents’ Campaign urge school districts not to join this lawsuit.
We agree that the Legislature has failed our children. They repeatedly have made excuses and pulled every trick in the book to avoid providing adequately for our kids’ schools – even when abundant funding has been available. That is why we support a constitutional amendment that will require the Legislature to invest properly in our schools when revenue is available.
But we do not support a lawsuit that makes attorneys wealthy at the expense of our children and our state. This suit should not be filed. Instead, we should focus our efforts on the Better Schools, Better Jobs amendment to strengthen our constitution and force lawmakers to make good on their promise to provide our children a decent education and give them a shot at a bright future.
Legislators should support this effort, too. If they truly have the best interests of our children at heart, if they really support strong public schools, they will support the amendment. All legislators should sign the petition to put the amendment question on the ballot in November of 2015.
Want to help?
Can you get 10 people to sign? If so, reply to this email and we’ll send you a petition and a stamped return envelope. Click here for important petition gathering info. And if you haven’t signed it yet yourself, please be sure to do so ASAP. You can sign a petition at these locations.
This is the opportunity that thousands of you have been waiting for – the chance to insist that legislators make good on their promise to our kids. It’s the light at the end of what has been a very long tunnel. Let’s all show kids we care. Let’s get those petitions signed, get the amendment on the ballot, and move toward a better day for our children and our state!