Heavy-handed Political Move Highlights Importance of 2015 Election

Yesterday’s news underscores the importance of August 4 for public education – the day of the primary election, when some of our most important legislative seats will be decided.

You have probably heard by now that House Appropriations Chairman Herb Frierson summoned state agency heads to the Capitol yesterday in what was clearly a scare tactic designed to gin up opposition to Initiative 42, the citizen-proposed constitutional amendment that would make an adequately funded public education a fundamental right of Mississippi children (see details of Chairman Frierson’s actions below). Parents who have worked hard to get the initiative on the November ballot are outraged.

This is but the most recent in a disturbing string of efforts by elected leaders to use heavy-handed tactics to manipulate the outcome of important initiatives, many of which have a direct impact on our children (vouchers, funding, Initiative 42, etc.). The August 4 primaries will be your first opportunity to push back against legislative power plays and elect people who will represent the interests of Mississippi children – not out-of-state lobbyists who want to divert public school funds to for-profit schools run by their corporate clients. It is absolutely imperative that we supporters of public schools get to know our candidates and fight for those who will fight for our kids and their public schools.

Click here to see if your House and/or Senate district has a primary race. (Find legislative candidates by school district here.)

I can’t overstate how important this election is for our children and our public schools.

Please take these two easy steps this week:

1. Share the Candidate Q & A responses for your House and Senate districts with your email and text contacts and on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. If the candidates in your district haven’t responded to our questionnaire, ask them to complete and return the survey. If they refuse, that sends a pretty strong message about their priorities.

2. Plan a Meet & Greet for your candidate of choice, hosting a simple gathering for friends and co-workers to get to know your candidate. Click here for help planning your Meet & Greet.

 More on Chairman Frierson’s Effort to Defeat Initiative 42
In early July, Chairman Frierson ordered state agency heads to report to him by July 15 how they will reduce their budgets by 7.8 percent due to cuts he threatens to make as appropriations chairman if Initiative 42 passes. Initiative 42 recommends phasing in full funding of schools using 25 percent of growth in General Fund revenue, but the chairman says he’ll push for full funding immediately if the people get their way – and punish all state agencies with budget cuts. The House Appropriations Chairman has no authority to direct agency heads, but many of them are political appointees who will likely be afraid to buck state leaders who hold the purse strings to their budgets. Chairman Frierson announced yesterday that he opposes not just Initiative 42, but also the legislative alternative (for which he voted during the 2015 session), 42-A. This is yet another sign that 42-A exists on the ballot simply as a means of confusing voters; even the House Appropriations Chair intends to vote against it.

In yesterday’s Appropriations Committee meeting, Chairman Frierson warned of the consequences of the tax cuts recently passed by the legislature that will reduce state revenue by $125-million in the coming year, yet he voted for those cuts and for Speaker Gunn’s proposed $1.7-billion tax cut, which eventually failed. Notably, he did not order agency heads to detail how they would have absorbed that 30 percent cut to their budgets.

On numerous occasions in the past, Chairman Frierson, a former educator himself, has worked to improve education funding, even taking political risks to benefit public education. I have no explanation for this recent turn of events. Frankly, I am stunned and disappointed.

Say-one-thing-and-do-another has become the habit of too many of our leaders. Even worse are the outright falsehoods used in recent months to frighten the electorate (i.e., the “one judge in Hinds County” argument that our Supreme Court Justices exposed as hogwash) and the heavy-handed tactics employed by the leadership to whip legislators into line and advance an anti-public education agenda.

The people of Mississippi should be outraged and offended. And we should do something about it. 

Will you step up for our kids?
We really need your help. Visit our Election 2015 Candidate Q & A site, check out our Election Toolkit, and get busy helping the candidates whose values most closely align with yours. Shoot us an email if you want to know more about how you can help. Political manipulation like that which we have seen in recent months threatens the very freedoms that define us as Americans. It’s time for it to stop.

Our kids can’t vote. We owe it to them to do our homework before we cast votes that will shape their futures. Take a look at what the candidates have to say, and spread the word. 

Speaker Gunn's proposed income tax elimination jeopardizes teacher pay raises and school funding far into the future.

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