Mississippi House passes alternative to school funding ballot initiative

House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton
House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton AP

The state House of Representatives today passed an alternative to a ballot initiative that aims to force the state to fully fund K-12 schools under its Mississippi Adequate Education Program. The measure passed 64-57.

“House Republicans have been focused on designing a clear alternative to Initiative 42,” said Speaker Philip Gunn in a press release. “With HCR9, focus is on educational output and accomplishments, not just funding for the sake of funding. The operative word in the alternative is effective. We want schools that are accomplishing something. We want schools that are effective.”

According to the release, the alternative states: “The Legislature shall, by general law, provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of an effective system of free public schools.”

Patsy Brumfield, spokeswoman for Better Schools, Better Jobs, the group pushing Initiative 42, on Monday saw the alternative coming and said it would likely be held up by a motion to reconsider. It was.

"That means we have time to explain to the public which legislators cared more about politics than their school districts and school children's futures," she wrote in an email Monday.

Gunn says the alternative focuses on three factors:

  • Keeping the decision about funding in the hands of the voters, not a judge for whom voters cannot vote.
  • Preserving the integrity of the Constitution by maintaining the separation of powers between the legislature and the judiciary.
  •  Focusing on educational outputs and accomplishments. 

“If the legislature is removed from the process, the people are being removed from the process,” said Speaker Gunn. “Their right to say how their money is being spent is being taken away. Initiative 42 proposes to do just that—remove the people from the process and put that decision in the hands of a judge for whom the people cannot vote.”