Latino: Initiative 42 means less freedom for parents

Do you see any reference to funding or the Mississippi Adequate Education Program? No. It’s not there. When proponents of 42 talk about funding, MAEP or “phase-ins” tied to revenue growth, those talking points come from the original proposal filed with the secretary of state. This is key, because once 42 passes, only the amendment language becomes a part of the constitution. A judge is not bound by what the proponents say the amendment should do.

The folks pushing 42 know this. They could have easily made sure the amendment, itself, contained funding language. But this was never simply about funding; 42 is a power grab — an effort to circumvent local leadership in our communities and schools.

Section 201 already provides for free public education and currently gives the Legislature the authority, by general law, to set up our school system. The reference to the Legislature’s power by general law is important. It is under this authority that our entire school system operates, from the Mississippi Department of Education down to your local elementary school.

Initiative 42 would transfer this authority to a chancery court judge. This court’s authority would not be limited to questions of funding. Because suits against the state must be filed in Jackson, 42 effectively gives control of our education system over to a single Jackson judge whose sole limitation is determining what is “adequate and efficient.”

The potential unintended consequences are infinite. This judge could determine that “Common Core” is the only “adequate and efficient” curriculum, that laws and policies set by the Legislature or your local school board are no longer “adequate and efficient,” that successful school districts should be forced to support or consolidate with unsuccessful school districts or that funding should increase at a level which would require widespread cuts or unsustainable tax increases.

Russ Latino Op-Ed
Clarion Ledger
8/9/15