Deadline approaches for school funding initiative

The Better Schools, Better Jobs (BSBJ) initiative has exactly two weeks to turn in at least 108,000 signatures to the secretary of state's office in order to have a ballot item placed on the 2015 statewide ballot that would require funding Mississippi schools.

BSBJ hopes that voters will choose to require the legislature to fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program through a constitutional amendment.

The legislature has only fully funded the program twice after adopting it in 1997.

"We've gotten probably 183,000 signatures statewide, which may well be the most anybody's ever collected," said BSBJ's Patsy Brumfield.

Before the petition signatures are turned over to the secretary of state's office, they are checked at the local level through circuit clerks. Brumfield said this is to ensure that what they are handing over to the secretary of state for a second look is valid.

"The state wide requirement is about 108,000," said Brumfield. "Those are to be evenly distributed among the old five congressional districts, so that's about 22,000 signatures certified per congressional district."

Brumfield said she is confident that the BSBJ initiative collected the required amount of signatures in each district.

A separate effort to fund MAEP is also in place, led by former Mississippi governor Ronnie Musgrove.

Musgrove's approach is a lawsuit against the state, which nineteen school districts across the state have joined. The lawsuit seeks refunding school districts for money they have lost since 2010 due to MAEP not being fully funded.

Musgrove filed the lawsuit Aug. 28, and additional districts have until early next week to join as plaintiffs.

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