Will Initiative 42 hand new authority to a judge?
No, of course not!
If you remember your high school civics class, you already know the answer.
Judges have had the authority to rule on the constitutionality of any legislative action, including school funding, as long as Mississippi has been a state. Our system of checks and balances, which gives the judiciary oversight of our Legislature, was designed specifically to protect the people from elected officials who violate our constitutional rights or otherwise abuse their power.
Initiative 42 does not change the powers of the individual branches of government. The Legislature will continue to appropriate all state funding, including education funding, and the courts will continue to determine if laws and actions by the state are constitutional. An important job assigned to judges all across our nation – including here in Mississippi – is to protect us from corrupt elected officials. Recent actions by elected officials in Mississippi demonstrate why this protection is so critical to the freedoms that we cherish.
Then why do we need Initiative 42?
We need to strengthen our constitution to provide our children a constitutional right to an adequate education. When it comes to public education, Mississippi’s state constitution is the weakest in the country. While every other state has a constitutional mandate regarding public schools, Mississippi does not. And while other states associate some level of quality with their constitutional obligations, Mississippi’s constitution requires only that our public schools be free. Period. Just free. Not even adequate – and certainly not “high quality” as is required in Florida’s constitution, or one “designed to promote excellence” as Louisiana requires.
Unless our constitution is amended, the actions of our Legislature regarding public education, no matter how offensive or detrimental to our children, will never be ruled unconstitutional as long as the public schools they provide are free. Initiative 42 would change that by requiring that our public schools be adequate and efficient in addition to being free. (“Adequate” and “efficient” are among the terms used to define the state’s obligation in numerous constitutions, including those of our neighbors Georgia, Florida, and Arkansas.)
If judges already have this authority, why are the courts mentioned in the amendment?
Initiative 42 seeks to protect the state from frivolous lawsuits for large punitive damages by directing school funding suits to the chancery courts and specifying that the courts should provide “appropriate injunctive relief.” Injunctive relief means making the Legislature follow existing law. So, if our Legislature continues to provide inadequate funding, and a court rules that action unconstitutional, the judge’s ruling would be, “Legislature, follow the law.” Lawsuits for large, punitive, monetary damages are filed in Circuit Court. Directing enforcement to Chancery Court limits the types of awards that can be sought.
So, why are a handful of politicians fighting so hard to defeat the people’s amendment?
That’s a good question. Because the only real change that will take place with this amendment is that Mississippi children will finally be given a constitutional right to an adequate education. That’s what the opponents are fighting. An adequate education for Mississippi children.
And that’s what the parents of Mississippi children are fighting FOR. We believe it is past time for our children to have the same constitutional right as the children in every other state. It’s time for our Legislature to be held accountable for the promise they made 18 years ago – a promise to provide our children adequate education funding. It is a promise they have broken repeatedly, knowing that the weakest constitution in the country prevents us from holding them accountable. It’s time for that to change.
It’s telling that the same people who repeatedly break their promise to our children are the very ones who are spreading false information about Initiative 42, threatening state workers, tampering with the ballot language, coercing state budget officials to produce a false fiscal analysis, using state tax dollars to campaign against the people’s amendment, and conspiring with corporate lobbyists – all in an effort to deny our children the right to an adequate education. Is it any wonder that Mississippi is ranked #1 in government corruption and #50 in just about everything else?
Are you fed up? Help us win in November and send the message that the people of this state are smarter than the opponents believe. We are tired of their propaganda and bullying tactics, and we are ready to win the day for Mississippi children!
Here’s what you need to know to help us pass Initiative 42:
Saturday (Oct. 3) is the deadline to register to vote. Download a voter registration form here.
What teachers CAN do in support of Initiative 42: Click here
Facts about Initiative 42: Click here
Get a marked sample ballot showing how to vote yes on Initiative 42: Click here
Read media reports and letters to the editor about Initiative 42: Click here
Request Initiative 42 bumper stickers, yard signs, push cards, and fact sheets: Click here
We’ve got four weeks to educate people about Initiative 42, show them how to mark their ballots in support of Mississippi children, and get them to the polls. Let’s go!