I have been asked to share my perspectives on Initiative 42. First, I am honored to have been asked since there are people who could share their insight much more eloquently. That I am a supporter of Initiative 42 is no secret. That I have been troubled by the underhanded actions of those opposed to the Initiative is also no secret. Everyone has a right to their viewpoint as well as a right to take an opposing stand, but when lies and misinformation are blatantly told as truths, the boundaries of decency and integrity are breached. It is an injustice to intentionally mislead anyone, but especially citizens who want so desperately do the right thing. How can people be expected to make the right choice when they are relentlessly subjected to misleading information that has only one purpose and that is to confuse? Unfortunately, opponents of Initiative 42 have done an excellent job confusing the public about Initiative 42. I can only hope in these last days before the November election that more people will discover the truth and take issue with those trying so desperately to destroy public education in Mississippi.
Personally, professionally, and financially, I have nothing to gain by presenting my views on this issue other than the satisfaction of doing my best to help kids get a better education. My purpose with this article is to separate the facts from the fiction. To do so, I have looked closely at both Initiatives 42 and 42A, researched news articles dealing with the debate over these issues, listened to people both for and against Initiative 42, and drawn, to a small extent, on my 37 years as an educator. In an effort to bring about clarity, I have broken the issue into two informative charts: Chart I: A Comparison of Initiative 42 Supporters and Opponents, and Chart II: Initiative 42, Misinformation and THE TRUTH. The charts represent the truth as I understand it, and they are backed by facts available to anyone with a little determination and willingness to research and read to get at the truth.
Chart I: A Comparison of Initiative 42 Supporters and Opponents
|Public Education Funding Supporters||Public Education Funding Opponents|
|History||The state Legislature passed a law in 1997 that mandated that MAEP (Mississippi Adequate Education Plan) be fully funded each year. The legislators promised to provide each public school district in Mississippi enough financial support to adequately fund K-12 education.||The state Legislature has honored the 1997 law only twice in 18 years.|
|At Issue||Supporters want state legislators to be held accountable to the 1997 law.||The state legislators claim they should not be held accountable to a law passed by a previous legislative session. With the exception of two years, they have refused to fully fund public school education as required by the 1997 law.|
|Citizens vs state legislators||Over 188,000 Mississippi citizens concerned that state legislators consistently ignored the 1997 MAEP law, signed petitions to place Initiative 42 on the November 2015 ballot.||For the first time in Mississippi history the state legislators countered a citizen led initiative by placing Initiative 42A on the November ballot.|
|What does each Initiative do?||
Chart II: Initiative 42, Misinformation and THE TRUTH
|Misinformation and Lies about Initiative 42||THE TRUTH|
|1||If Initiative 42 passes, one judge in Hinds County will have the final say on how school money is spent.
|THE TRUTH: A Hinds County judge will not be needed if the Legislature fully funds MAEP. If the Legislature fails to fully fund MAEP, a Hinds County judge will hear the issue since Jackson is in Hinds County and that is where the state legislature convenes. Any decision the judge makes can be appealed to the State Supreme Court, so a single judge does not have the final decision. Finally, the judge cannot make decisions regarding how or where state education funding is spent. How education money is spent is a local school district decision.|
|2||If Initiative 42 passes, a judge in Hinds County will be able to take money from one school and give it to another.||THE TRUTH: The idea that a judge could take money from one school and give it to another was fabricated by a political group opposed to Initiative 42. As Sam Hall, writer for the Jackson Clarion Ledger said, “The ad by Improve Mississippi Political Initiative Committee is the worst kind of scare tactic and downright lie yet used. He went on to describe the ad as “the lowest kind of politics there is.” There is nothing in Initiative 42 that gives a judge the authority to take money from one school district and give it to another school.|
|3||If Initiative 42 passes, one judge in Hinds County will have the power to force schools to consolidate,||THE TRUTH: Nowhere in Initiative 42 is consolidation of school districts mentioned. However, opponents of Initiative 42 want the public to believe that if they vote for Initiative 42, they will lose their school district. School consolidation falls under the power of the Governor and state legislators. The Governor and state legislators decide when and if schools are to be consolidated.|
|4||If Initiative 42 is passed, increased funds will go to pay for administrator salaries and not go to the children in the classrooms.||THE TRUTH: MAEP funds pay for teacher salaries and instructional materials. Administrator salaries are set by local school boards and are completely under local school district control.|
|5||If Initiative 42 is passed, the budgets of other state agencies will have to be cut.||THE TRUTH: The petition signed by nearly 200,000 Mississippi citizens included a full description of a six to seven year phase in process. Therefore, passing Initiative 42 will not result in other state agency budgets being cut. Increases in school funding would also be dependent upon state revenue increases.|
|6||If Initiative 42 is passed, taxes will be raised.||THE TRUTH: Raising taxes is not required if Initiative 42 passes. According to House Speaker, Phillip Gunn, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, Mississippi has enough money to fund all state services without raising taxes. In fact, at the end of the 2015 legislative session, they rose in support of eliminating state income taxes altogether. If Mississippi can afford to eliminate state income taxes, which accounts for about 40% of the state’s revenue, it is safe to say there will not be a need to raise taxes to support education or any other state budget. Raising taxes is a scare tactic used by opponents of Initiative 42.|
Whether readers take to heart what I have to say is up to each individual reader, but I am committed to support all children, and I can assure you I will sleep well the night of Tuesday, November 3, 2015, knowing I have voted for Initiative 42 because it is best for not only my grandchildren, but all Mississippi children as well. My alma mater has a slogan during football season, “Southern Miss to the Top!” Wouldn’t it be great if by November 3 we had all Mississippians shouting, “Initiative 42 to the Top!” I bet that would put an uncomfortable wad in the panties of Governor Bryant and other state legislators so set on underfunding public school education.
INITIATIVE 42 to the TOP!
Jack Linton, October 9, 2015