Small business members of the National Federation of Independent Business overwhelmingly oppose a proposed state constitutional amendment that would ultimately put Mississippi’s public schools under the control of a single judge.

When NFIB/Mississippi recently surveyed its members, 92.2 percent of those who responded opposed Initiative 42, an amendment that would require the state to establish, maintain and support “an adequate and efficient system of free public schools.” The mandate would be enforced not by the Legislature but by a chancery judge in Jackson.

Of those surveyed, 67.2 percent oppose any change to the state constitution, while 25 percent favor an alternative, Initiative 42A.

Initiative 42A would require lawmakers to establish, maintain and support “an effective system of free public schools.” Under 42A, the decision-making authority for the funding and policymaking of the schools would remain with the Legislature.

“While there’s some disagreement about the best way to manage our schools, what’s crystal clear is that small businesses believe the schools should be left in the hands of the Legislature, not the courts,” said Ron Aldridge, state director of NFIB/Mississippi, the state’s leading small-business association.

Only 1.6 percent of respondents said they support Initiative 42; 6.2 percent were undecided.

Unlike other business groups, NFIB’s public-policy positions are based solely on the input of its members, Aldridge said. “When we asked our members about the proposed state constitutional amendments, their voices were loud and clear,” he said.

“Our members believe the 174-member, locally elected Legislature is more likely to respond and be accountable to the needs of the community—not just parents and teachers but also small businesses, which depend on a strong public-school system to help prepare our young people for an increasingly competitive marketplace.

“That’s why NFIB/Mississippi opposes Initiative 42,” Aldridge said. “We believe our children’s future and the future of our economy are too important to put in the hands of just one person with no accountability to all the people of Mississippi. And we can’t afford for more of our hard-earned tax dollars to be further diverted from the teachers and classrooms, and instead eaten up in continuous and costly court battles.”