Initiative 42 supporters vow continued funding fight

TUPELO -- Advocates of public education in Mississippi have no plans to let the defeat of Initiative 42 slow them down.

Following the defeat of Initiative 42 in the November general election, The Parents' Campaign, a nonprofit grassroots network of parents, educators and public school supporters, has been at work to find other ways to encourage the state to direct more funding and resources toward public schools.

According to Patsy Brumfield, former director of communications for 42 For Better Schools, many of those involved in the campaign for Initiative 42 have now joined forces with The Parents' Campaign.

"I think it is important that all facets of the education community and parents and business people who value public education stay together and work hard, especially during this legislative session," Brumfield said.

Brumfield is not currently working directly with the Parents' Campaign, although she was heavily involved in the campaign for Initiative 42.

The immediate concern of Mississippi's education community, Brumfield said, should be looking for solutions to school funding woes rather than dwelling on 42's defeat or past frustrations.

Of the people who voted in November to change the Constitution, most people voted for Initiative 42 over the legislative alternative, Initiative 42A.

Although the measure didn't pass, Brumfield said the number of votes for 42 was encouraging.

"That ought to make a difference to the people in Jackson," Brumfield said.

Nancy Loome, director of The Parents' Campaign, said the group plans to ramp up its interaction with legislators and continue to be vocal in advocating for more funding for public schools.

"Our members are frustrated, and they want answers and they want action," Loome said. "...We won't back off that at all."

Although Loome said The Parents' Campaign does not currently have any large-scale projects in the works, she feels the momentum gained by Initiative 42 will continue to grow and press the issue of school funding in the legislature and statewide.

"People really stepped up, and we were encouraged by the level of support," Loome said. "That has not diminished. I think if anything, it is as enthusiastic as it has ever been, and we hope to capitalize on that."

Loome said she does not think another push to amend the Constitution will come any time soon.

In the coming months, Loome said The Parents' Campaign will focus on making sure that the legislature does everything it can to bring public school funding back up to an adequate level.

There has been talk leading up to the 2016 legislative session of changing the Mississippi Adequate Education Program formula, which is used to determine how much state funding is necessary for public school districts to provide an adequate education to their students.

Loome said The Parents' Campaign also plans to monitor any legislative plans to change the formula.

"We'll be keeping an eye on that to make sure people are aware of what their legislators are doing," Loome said. "Changing the formula doesn't change what students need in order to be successful."

The organization's primary tool for making a change, Loome said, will be better communication.

When the Parents' Campaign was first organized in 2006, Loome said, legislators were more responsive.

"What we have seen over the past few years is the leadership has become more aggressive in pushing its agenda very often in spite of what constituents want," Loome said. "Legislators need to hear more directly and more often from constituents."

Loome said Parents' Campaign members in communities across the state are planning to meet with their legislators more regularly in 2016.

According to an email announcement from The Parents' Campaign, the organization will also soon launch a tool that will allow users to more efficiently track and share their legislators' votes on education bills.