‘Effective’ or ‘adequate and efficient’? House committee proposes language change in school funding amendment

JACKSON, Mississippi — Mississippi lawmakers on Monday proposed alternate wording for a state constitutional referendum on school funding, raising the likelihood of a showdown on the House floor as early as Tuesday.

The proposed language was approved 8-4 by the House Constitution Committee, said Chairman Scott Delano, R-Gulfport. House Concurrent Resolution 9, sponsored by House Speaker Pro Tem Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, asks voters to approve an amendment that would require that the Legislature provide an “effective system of free public schools.”

That’s a switch from the language placed on the ballot after nearly 117,000 registered voters signed a petition. The ballot language calls for “an adequate and efficient system” of schools. It’s designed to force lawmakers to stop appropriating less than the amount called for by the state’s school funding formula, setting up grounds for a lawsuit if they don’t. Over the past seven years, Mississippi has fallen $1.5 billion short of the amount mandated by its formula, the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.

If lawmakers agree, both original language and the Legislature’s language would appear on the November ballot. Voters could choose one or the other, or reject both.