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UNITED METHODIST PASTORS: Make all children our top priority, vote for Initiative 42

As Mississippi United Methodist pastors serving in rural areas, county seats, and large towns all across our wonderful state, we are compelled to speak out on behalf of our children and Mississippi public school education.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, was passionate about providing all children access to educational opportunities in 18th Century England. He opened libraries, published reading material for children, and founded schools that served impoverished children. He believed every child -- regardless of gender or economic background -- deserved the opportunity a quality education provided.

Because we believe that every child in Mississippi has a right to a great education, we will be voting in favor of Initiative 42 on Nov. 3. Initiative 42 will require our legislators to follow our state law and fully fund public education based on the MEAP formula. Our Legislature has failed to honor this law nearly every year since its adoption in 1997.

We are disappointed that politicians have added 42-A to the ballot. 42-A will confuse thousands of people who are trying to make an informed decision regarding our children's well being. Please be advised: 42-A is simply a vote for the status quo. What is the status quo?

n Since 2008, the state budget (excluding federal funds) has grown by 35 percent while K-12 education's portion of the state budget has grown by 2.47 percent.

n Mississippi ranks 47th in per student funding out of 51 (including District of Columbia).

n Mississippi ranks last among our neighboring states in per student funding.

The status quo limits our children; it limits our state; it deprives all of us of economic stability.

We can rise above the status quo! We can begin to work together to ensure every community in our state has a school with high-quality facilities, full of teachers and students who have all they need to succeed. Initiative 42 will be a much-needed step in the right direction for K-12 education in Mississippi.

We strive to be faithful to Jesus' high calling in the communities we serve, and we can think of no higher priority in God's Kingdom than our children. Jesus said: "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs." We can't think of a single child in Mississippi that Jesus would turn away. Let's make all children our top priority. They desperately need it, and they deserve the resources Initiative 42 will bring.

Signed by: Rev. Bruce Case, Madison; Rev. Dr. Eddie Rester, Oxford; Rev. Dawn Douglas Flowers, Bay St. Louis; Rev. Austin Hoyle, Gautier; Rev. Brad Corban, Hattiesburg; Rev. David McCoy, Jackson; Rev. Rick Brooks, Tupelo; Rev. Reed McCaleb, Brandon; Rev. Martha June Kirby, Ocean Springs; Rev. Megan Becnel, Picayune; Rev. Lisa Garvin, Jackson; Rev. Chris Brooking Richardson, Summit; Rev. Susannah Grubbs-Carr, Vicksburg; Rev. Stacey Parvin, Louisville; Rev. Lance Presley, Gulfport; Rev. Paige Swaim-Presley, Gulfport; Rev. Justin White, Greenville; Rev. LaRue Owen, Jackson; Rev. Jonathan Altman, Gulfport; Rev. Richard Robbins, Ridgeland; Rev. Lynette Little, Ocean Springs; Rev. Heather Hensarling, Brookhaven; Rev. Rachel Benefield-Pfaff, Biloxi; Rev. John Brashier, Jackson; Rev. Susan Eaton, Hattiesburg; Rev. Victor Chatham, State Line; Rev. Becky Youngblood, Jackson; Rev. Mitch Cochran, Vicksburg; Rev. Joe E. Garvin, Montrose and Garlandville; Rev. Dr. Eric Pridmore, Poplarville; Rev. Bess Perrier, Biloxi; Rev. Pamela Cameron, Yazoo City; Rev. Vera Hall, Lorman; Rev. Chris Cumbest, Brandon; Rev. Sheila Cumbest, Brandon; Rev. Lynn Mote, Tupelo; Rev. Dr. Larry Hilliard, Ridgeland; Rev. Terry Hilliard, Ridgeland; Rev. Rod Dickson-Rishel, Long Beach; Rev. Dorothy Dickson-Rishel, Long Beach; Rev. Smith Lilley, Saltillo; Rev. Greg Ducker, Ellisville; Rev. David Sellers, Hattiesburg; Rev. Allen McGraw, Water Valley; Rev. John Moore, Ridgeland; Rev. Jon Kaufman, Ocean Springs; Rev. Rob Gill, Hattiesburg; Rev. Jim Fisher, Gulfport; Rev. Sarah Windham, West Point; Rev. LaSonya DeBose, Ocean Springs; Rev. Allison Dickerson, Brandon; Rev. Claire Dobbs, Gulfport; Rev. Marianne Smith, Gloster and Crosby; Rev. Oscar McGough, Brandon; Rev. Dr. Joey Shelton, Jackson; Rev. David Huffman, DeSoto County; Rev. Timothy C. Thompson, Sr., Ridgeland; Rev. Bruce Taylor, Decatur; Rev. Johniel Henry, Laurel; Rev. Diane Braman, Brandon; Rev. Warren Black, Oxford; Rev. Sally Bevill, Biloxi; Rev. Clint Gill, Hattiesburg; Rev. K. Dale Hensarling, Terry; Rev. Rusty Keen, Meridian; Rev. Dr. Stephen Cook, Jackson; Rev. Philip Messner, Madison; Rev. T.W. Lewis, Jackson; Rev. Dr. Carl Grubbs, Ridgeland; Rev. David Price, Hattiesburg; Rev. Dr. Connie Shelton, Jackson; Rev. Elijah Mitchell, Ocean Springs; Rev. Chris Diggs, Oxford; Rev. Frank Gipson, Greenwood; Rev. Jim Beam-Ingram, Picayune; Rev. Chris McAlilly, Oxford; Rev. Willie Williams, Webb; Rev. Detra Bishop, Durant; Rev. Randy Marchant, Indianola; Rev. Chance May, Belzoni; Rev. Bert Felder, Ridgeland; Rev. Carol Burnett, Biloxi; Rev. Vickie White, Madison; Rev. DeMario Benson, Jackson; Rev. Maxine Bolden, Jackson; Rev. Robert Brown, Brandon; Rev. Keith Tonkel, Jackson; Rev. Joe May, Jackson; Rev. Patrick Hutto, Hattiesburg; Rev. Rachel Pitts, Vicksburg; Rev. Karie Sue McCaleb, Brandon; Rev. Jimmy Carr, Brandon; Rev. Joy Carr, Brandon; Rev. Ed King, Jackson; Rev. Don Fortenberry, Jackson; Rev. Emily Sanford, Jackson; Rev. Linda Lindsey-Williams, Brandon; Rev. Amy Pearson Roller, Richton; Rev. Kurt Appel, Petal; Rev. Judy Longo, Bilox; Rev. Leanne Burris, Gulfport; Rev. Cynthia Cross, Hattiesburg; Rev. Cliff Burris, Diamondhead; Rev. Jerry Chapman, Ocean Springs; Rev. Ella Dedeaux, Pass Christian; Rev. Anna Fleming-Jones, Jackson; Rev. Paul Roller, Richton; Rev. Sherry Stanley Judy, Pascagoula; Rev. Betty Weaver, Ocean Springs; and Rev. Todd Owen Watson, Hattiesburg