14 School districts suing state over MAEP funding

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - 14 school districts, including Hattiesburg, Richton, Smith County and Wayne County, have filed a lawsuit against the State of Mississippi, asking for funds they say are owed to them under the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP).

Since fiscal 2010, that program has been underfunded by about $1.5 billion.

Former Democratic Governor Ronnie Musgrove, who authored and helped pass MAEP in 1997, is lead attorney for the districts and he held a news conference about the suit in Hattiesburg Thursday.

"We cannot let one of the greatest legislative accomplishments on behalf of school districts in the state of Mississippi be rendered meaningless by leaders of the Legislature in Jackson," Musgrove said.

Supporters of a separate effort to require full-funding in the state constitution are critical of the lawsuits.

Republican state senator Joey Fillingane of Hattiesburg said the lawsuit is "the wrong approach."

He said the Legislature already spends about 65 percent of discretionary funds on educational issues.

The school districts in the suit say they are owed more than $115 million in funding since 2010.