A recent Education Week article written by Andrew Ujifusa entitled “K-12 Funding Fights Roil States’ Back-to-School Landscape” outlines what Mississippi may be facing if Initiative 42 passes in November, and it’s not pretty.
Ujifusa tells the story of millions of dollars in lawsuits in Washington, Colorado, and Texas centered around education funding and the ability for lawmakers to balance their state’s budget.
And who pays for the state and school districts to haggle over tax dollars? Taxpayers.
And who benefits from these lawsuits? Our children and schools? Absolutely not! It is trial lawyers.
In Colorado, an amendment that requires annual increases to “statewide base per pupil funding” was approved by voters there in 2000. Since then lawmakers and school advocates have been fighting over voter imposed state budget requirements versus fiscal realities.
Likewise, Mississippi will be facing voter imposed state budget cuts should Initiative 42 pass. I outlined that scenario recently here on Y’all Politics.
As Colorado shows us, there’s only so much money to go around, and in Mississippi lawmakers have to be even more diligent given our state’s lower revenues. A judge doesn’t have to be concerned about the state budget as whole; he or she will be forced to rule on the merits of the case before them without the knowledge of state revenues and budgetary requirements.
In Washington, Ujifusa notes, “Although the state increased K-12 spending by $1.3 billion for the 2015-17 biennial budget, last month the state’s supreme court announced it was fining the state $100,000 until it satisfied the court’s 2012 ruling in the McCleary v. Washington case and further increased state support to schools.”
Did you catch that? Even though lawmakers in Washington increased education funding over a billion dollars the court is fining the state.
A similar situation exists in Mississippi with Initiative 42.
Even though the Legislature has increased education funding by $395 million, Democrats (who are not in the legislative majority for the first time in 140 years), education lobbyists and out of state special interest groups have crafted Initiative 42 to remove the voice of our elected representatives and replace it with a judge, effectively handing over millions to trial lawyers and political patrons who will be lining up to file lawsuits over “equity funding” and “fairness”.
Pro42ers continue to claim that the initiative is about fully funding the Mississippi Adequate Education Program formula, yet, as it’s been noted numerous times, the measure never mentions funding; it merely removes the Legislature and shifts the appropriation process for education from lawmakers under “general law” to a chancery court.
Reading the article by Ujifusa it is obvious that Mississippi doesn’t need to join these other states that are facing significant challenges in funding not only education but every state budget line and balancing their state budgets all while fighting frivolous lawsuits for years on end, padding the pockets of trial lawyers and depleting state coffers of our already thinly stretched state revenues.
Initiative 42, by definition, is a trial lawyer’s dream.