MAEP supporter calls potential legislative alternative "dirty, political trick"

MAEP supporter calls potential legislative alternative "dirty, political trick"

LAMAR COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - The Mississippi legislature could create an alternative to a ballot initiative that would allow voters to decide if lawmakers should be required by the state Constitution to adequately and efficiently fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP).

"Of course, that has never happened in the history of the initiative law," said Better Schools, Better Jobs' Patsy Brumfield of a legislative alternative.

Senator John Polk (R- Dist. 44) said BSBJ's amendment would "open up a lot of area that I don't think the people of Mississippi want to get into."

He said if the amendment passes and the legislature does not fund MAEP, the state would be sued, which would end up in Hinds County Chancery Court.

"I don't think the people of Mississippi wants the courts to decide," he explained.

MAEP was passed by the state legislature in 1997, but it has only been fully funded twice since then, and both times were election years.

According to Lamar County Superintendent Tess Smith, her district has been underfunded by $16,033,529 over the past three years, based off of the MAEP formula.

"In the school system using this formula, we don't ever know for sure how much we're going to get at the end of the year until we're notified, so it's kind of hard to plan," said Smith.

Lamar County grew by 300 students district-wide this year, but due to lack of funding, Smith said she was only able to add four teacher positions, all of which were at the elementary school.

"I know the legislature has a difficult job," said Smith, "I just wish there could be a little more consistency with that so that we could plan better."

Sen. Polk said he had heard discussions among lawmakers about a legislative alternative to the constitutional amendment, although he said he did not know any specific details.

"Without any guidance from leadership, I would like to see an alternative," he said.

Brumfield, however, knew without looking at that option that it would be a "dirty, political trick."

"It doesn't matter what the alternative is, they've had 17 years to get MAEP right," she said.

Polk said he believed MAEP would be "adequately funded" in the 2015 session, which begins in January, but he doubted it would be "what educators call fully funded."