Former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove asks judge to pay 21 Mississippi school districts $200 million (updated)

JACKSON, Mississippi — Former Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove asked a judge Wednesday to order the state to pay money that 21 school districts say they are owed from past school underfunding.

Musgrove, a Democrat who helped write the Mississippi Adequate Education Program and push it into law in 1997 when he was lieutenant governor, also asked Hinds County Chancery Judge William Singletary on Wednesday to order lawmakers to never underfund the program again.

Singletary said he’d consider the arguments and rule later. Both sides have asked the judge to rule for them without a trial.

The 21 districts, including the city of Jackson, say they’re owed $236 million. Musgrove bases his case on a 2006 law that says the Legislature shall fully fund MAEP, a formula that’s meant to provide enough money to Mississippi’s 146 school districts to pay for education. Lawmakers have appropriated $1.5 billion less than what the formula calls for over the past seven budget years.