Tag Archives: Initiative 42

Lessons Public School Teachers Learned from Initiative 42

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 the people of Mississippi sent a message to public school educators that they didn’t care. That may sound harsh since many of those who voted against supporting education actually did care, but they were confused and bamboozled by the GOP leadership. Nevertheless, their numbers, plus the numbers of those who truly didn’t care, successfully drove a stake through the hearts of public school educators. To put it simply, public school teachers in Mississippi were royally shafted!

There is little doubt that if the campaign leading up to the vote had been on the up and up, Initiative 42 would have passed. But, the deceitful propaganda and the campaigning of the Southern fried good old boy troubadours (Bryant, Reeves, and Gunn) were simply too much for many Mississippians to see through. In a state where much of the population acquires its news solely from talk radio, television, and word of mouth, it is disappointing but understandable when people prove to be gullible to such tactics. In spite of the valiant efforts to cleanse the confusion and dirt from the air surrounding Initiative 42, teachers, parents, college professors, and church ministers, to name a few, tried unsuccessfully to debunk anti-Initiative 42 hearsay that was laced with tidbits of race bating and “you ain’t gonna tell us what to do” phobia. It is hard to compete with the hair dresser, Uncle Snooty, Aunt Birdie, wisdom benders in the church parking lot, and Cousin Jeb who knows a guy who knows a guy in the Legislature, telling people the truth as they, by God and word of mouth, know it to be.

Nevertheless, in spite of the shafting, educators learned that for maybe the first time in history, they are not alone! They learned there is a grassroots movement of over 300,000 Mississippians who are also fed up with the lack of Legislative support for education. This movement represents the new Mississippi, and educators must take care not to overlook the tremendous efforts so many people made on their behalf. Though discouraged, this is a time for teachers to take what has been learned from this fight and temporarily file it away to use another day. This is a Mississippi fight that will not end until education becomes a priority.

What Educators Learned From Initiative 42

  1. We learned our state leaders are not above intentionally misleading and confusing the people;
  2. We learned some community college presidents who have always touted being a friend of public education speak with the tongue and venom of a snake;
  3. We learned what the rest of the nation has been saying is true – Mississippi has changed little;
  4. We learned many people in our state believe too much is spent on education, and some even believe they could take the money presently spent on education and do a better job teaching than state teachers. Of course, teachers know that is a lot of hot air! First, those would be teachers would not commit themselves to spending thousands of dollars for the degrees and advanced degrees it takes to get a license to teach! Second, those would be teachers couldn’t handle the long hours dealing with someone else’s kids while shortchanging their own, and they certainly would not work for a teacher’s salary that when divided by the hours worked amounts to far less than minimum wage. Those would be teachers wouldn’t have the stomach to clean up the vomit, deal with soiled clothes, and runny noses that go along with the job. They wouldn’t understand that teachers often have to be a mama or daddy to children in need of guidance, love and a whole lot of understanding and compassion. They couldn’t cope with the stress that goes with an “I gottcha!” evaluation system. They would not subject themselves to the constant ridicule and disrespect thrown at them by so many in the public and political ranks. But, most of all those would be teachers couldn’t handle going to work every day praying their family understands why they teach, and hoping at least the parents of the children they teach care and appreciate the job they are doing, but knowing other than family, a handful of remarkable parents, and colleagues, no one cares about them as a teacher;
  5. We learned that before the dust of the battle has fully cleared, the talk in Jackson is not about what the Legislature can do to show they care about teachers, but rather the talk is centered around doing away with MAEP, so in the future the legislators will not have to face a situation similar to Initiative 42 again;
  6. We learned that many people believe Mississippi education is broken, but they are not willing to do what it takes to fix it;
  7. We learned from people who haven’t been in a classroom or walked into a school in years what a sorry job teachers are doing in the classroom and how they are wasting taxpayer money;
  8. We learned all the education money is going to millionaire school administrators and not the classrooms;
  9. We learned that a Mississippi chancery judge is the most powerful judicial position in the state and maybe the nation; and
  10. We also learned that a chancery judge is especially powerful if he or she is black and from Hinds County.

Initiative 42 was a time of learning and coming to grips with reality for public school educators. In addition to the lessons mentioned above, educators learned that when it comes to education, too many in the public are quick to the trigger with excuses for not supporting it. Politically, educators learned that, other than the faces, little has changed in Mississippi politics over the years – the party in power still tends to be the party of suppression. However, the most important lesson educators learned is that it takes the passion of a saint, the courage of a warrior, and the compassion of an angel to be a teacher in Mississippi. As I have said elsewhere, teachers from Mississippi will not have to stand in line in Heaven to get their wings; they will be moved immediately to the head of the line.

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD, November 7, 2015

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The Reality of School Cuts if Initiative 42 Fails

People opposed to Initiative 42 like to speculate on the cuts other Mississippi state agencies may face if the Initiative passes, but they fail to see the cuts public schools live with everyday; cuts that are not speculative.  Cuts in public school are a reality!  K – 12 public schools have been steadily cutting their budgets for years! It is not uncommon for school districts in Mississippi to cut their budgets by as much as 15% to open the school doors to start the school year, cut the budget again at Christmas by another 10%, and then cut 5% in the spring to keep the schoolhouse doors open until May. While cuts to other state agencies are at this point pure speculation at best, there is nothing speculative about the present reality of cuts in public schools and the forthcoming cuts that will result if Initiative 42 does not pass. Many of our state schools are to the point they cannot continue to make cuts and keep the schoolhouse doors open!

The problem is that too many in the public are not aware of the financial struggles their community schools have been facing. Why should they be? School district superintendents, school boards, and the faculty and staff have always “sucked it up” and moved forward in the best interests of the children despite the cuts. The problem is they have “sucked it up” until the well is almost sucked dry. Unfortunately, as long as the school buses keep rolling, the lights keep flickering on in classrooms, and the football team and the band plays on Friday nights, the public will continue to believe all is well and good in “public school land.” However, financially, all is not good in “public school land!” Let’s not kid ourselves, it’s time Mississippians consider the magnitude of public school cuts and what those cuts will mean not only to their children but to their communities as well if Initiative 42 fails to pass.

As I have said elsewhere, with or without Initiative 42, Mississippi will continue to have school – at least for the foreseeable future. Whatever cuts happen in the public schools, few in the public will notice until those cuts begin to hit home. The public will not notice until family members who work in schools as assistant teachers, custodians, maintenance workers, clerical staff, and even teachers are sent home without a job because there is little or no money to pay them. The public will not notice until the local schoolhouse doors are closed and their children are bused across counties thirty or forty miles to the nearest school still open. And, the public will not notice there is a serious financial problem in public schools until the football team and the band stops playing on Friday night!

Unfortunately, most people in the public do not believe these things are possible. They take public schools and the education it provides their children, the jobs it provides people in their community, and the sense of pride it instills in their community for granted. They shouldn’t!  If the public does not make public school education a priority by passing Initiative 42, these things are very much in jeopardy.  Unless, the public demands their public schools become a priority in Jackson, they should expect major cuts in their community schools. Folks, this “ain’t no” scare tactic! If you think it is, take a serious look at the following decisions regarding your community schools that will need to be made if adequate funding for public schools is not addressed soon. This list is not speculation of the cuts that will need to be considered! These are cuts local school boards will have to consider unless there is adequate funding for education in their school districts.

Cuts the public can expect to see if community public schools are not properly funded:

  1. Non-certified personnel cuts: Although this list does not necessarily represent cuts in priority order, the first cuts usually made in a school district are in the area of non-certified personnel (non-teaching positions). Therefore, if there are assistant teachers in schools, they will probably be the first to be sent home without a job. Next in line to lose their jobs due to cuts will be cafeteria workers, custodians, clerical staff, and maintenance personnel, and any other non-certified positions;
  2. School Counselors cut: Although school counselors are already in short supply in most schools, without proper funding, you can expect to see school counselor positions eliminated in all but the wealthiest school districts;
  3. School Nurses cut: School nurses may be cut to one per school district, or none at all;
  4. School Security cut: In an era when school safety and security are a major concern, school security officers may have to be cut to one per school district, or cut completely;
  5. Program cuts: Districts will be forced to look very closely at course/subject offerings. Tough choices will have to be made about such courses/programs as foreign languages, visual arts, performing arts, choir, physical education, driver education, technology, vocational programs, and tutoring programs to determine which programs, if any, survive;
  6. Certified personnel cuts:  Many districts will have to cut the number of teachers in their districts, which will result in more students in each classroom as well as reduced course/subject offerings;
  7. Extracurricular activities cut: Extracurricular activities such as band, show choir, and sports (football, basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, etc.) will have to be severely cut back or eliminated altogether. For example, school districts could save money by eliminating the purchase and upkeep of athletic and band uniforms and equipment. Money could be saved by cutting athletic trainers, and cutting back or eliminating band directors, football coaches, etc. Savings could be realized by parking athletic, band, and cheerleader buses. Many schools across the state will be forced to take hard looks at the financial feasibility of keeping extracurricular activities in their community schools;
  8. School Schedules shortened:  The length of the school day as well as cutting schools to a four day week would have to be considered. By moving to a four day school week, school districts theoretically could save as much as 20% of their overhead costs such as utilities, transportation, food services, and salaries for both certified and non-certified personnel. Of course, such a move might also impact parents financially since they would need to pay for daycare services for younger children who would normally be in school;
  9. Facility decisions/cuts: There will be little new construction, and even basic maintenance needs will have to be cut to the bare minimum. This has already happened in many school districts, and will only get worse without adequate funding;
  10. Transportation cuts: (1) If extracurricular activities survive the cuts, the number of games and contests will need to be drastically reduced, thereby saving on transportation costs; (2) Without funding for transportation upgrades (new buses) and maintenance, double routing school buses packed to capacity will become the norm as buses are taken out of service without money to repair or replace them; and (3) To save on transportation costs, school field trips at all grade levels will need to be eliminated.

I am sure there are other school district cuts I am leaving out, but the point is, it is speculation at best to say state agencies will be cut 7.8% if Initiative 42 passes, but it is NOT speculation to say that school districts will have to make cuts, even dramatic cuts, if Initiative 42 does not pass – the cuts are already happening! Schools are expensive, but the impact of not adequately funding community schools will impact not only the education of our children, but the economy of our communities (loss of wages from shortened work schedules and layoffs), and community pride as well. The only protection against public school cuts and the devastation such cuts cause our children and our communities is to VOTE for INITIATIVE 42!

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD November 2, 2015

Response to a Retired Teacher about Initiative 42

[Note: Recently a retired school teacher responded to one of my blogs expressing her concerns with Initiative 42. She had concerns with what she felt was ambiguous wording in the Initiative, putting too much power in the hands of a single judge, and the possibility of taxes being raised if Initiative 42 passes. Since there are others who are still expressing some of the same concerns, I decided to use my response to her as today’s blog.]

Thank you for taking time to read the blog and comment. As a retired school teacher myself, I could feel and understand the angst in your words as you struggle with the Initiative 42 issue. From the passion and compassion of your words, it is obvious why teachers such as you will not have to wait in line in heaven to get their wings. You have every right to be concerned, but I will do my best to make you feel more at ease about Initiative 42.  I thank you for your years of service as a teacher, and your continued attention to education issues.

Concern #1: Vagueness in the wording of Initiative 42 and the use of “state” in place of “legislature.”

The biggest differences between the wording of Initiative 42 and the current wording of Section 201 of the Mississippi State Constitution are two words “state” replacing legislature and the word “adequate.” Under Initiative 42, “legislature” is being replaced by “state” for one reason and that is that for years education funding has been left in the hands of the state legislature, and other than voting for their legislative representatives, the people have had little or no voice in funding education. In theory, that should not be a problem since elected officials are supposed to uphold the law as well as uphold the will of the people who voted them into office. However, sometimes when elected representatives arrive in Jackson, something mysterious seems to happen, they magically become “all knowing” with the belief they have the freedom to do as they choose. For example, ignoring the law and not fully funding education according to the MAEP formula. Of course, this is not a recent phenomenon. The reluctance of state legislators to make education a priority has been a stain on Mississippi for countless decades.

In 1997, the Legislature finally passed a law that many hoped would put to rest the education funding issue. The 1997 law required the Legislature to “adequately” fund education, and created the MAEP formula as the measurement of “adequate” spending for K-12 public school education. Over the next 18 years, the Legislature honored that law twice. They ignored/broke the law 16 out of 18 years at the expense of public school children and teachers across Mississippi. Therefore, in 2015, Initiative 42, supported by over 188,000 citizens, was placed on the ballot to address the legislators’ reluctance to honor the law.

In Initiative 42, the word “legislature” was changed to “state” to make legislators accountable to the people. Without that change the legislators would remain accountable only to themselves except once every four years when they were up for election or re-election. Basically, they say whatever it takes to be elected, and once elected, they do as they please. However, Initiative 42 makes them accountable in non-election years as well. The Initiative does not usurp the power of the voter, but rather adds to the power of the voter to ensure elected representatives do their job and follow the law even between elections. Changing the word “legislature” to “state” allows the people to have recourse when the Legislature fails to perform its duties as required by law. Under Initiative 42, for probably the first time in history, state politicians will be held accountable for their actions or lack of action.

Concern #2: Ambiguity of the word “adequate” in Initiative 42, and the word “funding” not in Initiative 42.

There is no ambiguity in the use of the word “adequate” in Initiative 42. An “adequate” education or “adequate” funding was established by the 1997 MAEP law. Under the law, the MAEP formula is used each year to determine each school district’s “adequate” MAEP allotment (funding). MAEP covers teacher and district employee salaries, retirement and insurance, instruction materials, operational costs, transportation, and add on programs such as special education, vocational education, gifted education and alternative education. The formula itself reads: ADA (Average daily attendance) X base student cost + at risk component (free and reduced lunch) – local contribution + 8% guarantee + add on programs = MAEP funding for the school district. The 8% guarantee in the formula is used only if needed to ensure the school district receives funding of at least 8% over what the district received in 2002. If you stop and think about the escalated cost of living and ever rising cost of doing business over the past 13 years, and consider the baseline funding for education in Mississippi is based on funding for 2002 + 8%, you should be able to clearly see that Initiative 42 is not asking for anything excessive.

Since MAEP was established as “adequate” under the 1997 law, placing “adequate” in the amendment to Section 201 of the Mississippi Constitution ensures the Legislature honors this formula. As for the word “funding” not being used in Initiative 42, the word “funding” is not used in any of the options – Initiative 42, Initiative 42A, or the current wording of Section 201 of the Mississippi Constitution. However, all three have the phrase “provide for the establishment, maintenance and support” of education, which implies funding. The word “funding” not being used in Initiative 42 is not a reason for alarm, and those who tell you that it is are simply trying to confuse the issue.

Concern #3: Mississippi is a poor state, so where will the money come from if Initiative 42 is passed?

Mississippi is a poor state, but that is even more reason for us to invest in education. The only way out of the quagmire of poverty is to have educated citizens. Through education, children who live in poverty have a chance to rise above unemployment, welfare, and minimal wage existences and adequately provide food, shelter, and clothing for their families. Education is the only chance they have for building the self-esteem and skills they need to rise above poverty!

Although Mississippi may be a poor state that does not mean Mississippi is not able to support funding education. At the end of the 2015 Mississippi Legislative session, Governor Phil Bryant, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves, and Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn all advocated for phasing out state income tax. Why would they propose such action when state income tax accounts for approximately 40% of Mississippi’s total revenue each year? How can Mississippi manage if it loses 40% of its annual revenue? Does that mean the state can afford to cut its budget by 40% and still operate efficiently? Probably not! Does that mean there is enough surplus and other revenue producing resources available to efficiently run the state government without the 40% provided by state income taxes? Probably! We know for a fact there is a surplus in the state’s “Rainy Day Fund,” so if Bryant, Reeves, and Gunn are to be believed, there are most likely other revenue producing ventures available to the state as well. Why else would they propose to eliminate 40% of the state’s revenue? The question is not can Mississippi afford to fund education; the question is does Mississippi want to fund education. Based on a state surplus as well as the proposed elimination of state income tax by state leadership, there is little doubt that reluctance to funding education is more in line with lack of motivation and will power than it is with lack of funding availability.

As for fears about the state cutting funding to other state agencies and raising taxes when Initiative 42 passes, those are scare tactics that have been used from day one by the opponents of Initiative 42. Cutting funding to other state agencies or raising taxes are being used by the Republican leadership in Jackson to confuse and divide the public on the education funding issue. These threats are coming from the same people who proposed eliminating state taxes! If Mississippi is so down and out financially that it would have to cut other agencies to fund education, what is the likelihood the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the House would advocate for phasing out state income taxes? Not very likely! Instead, they would be advocating raising income taxes rather than getting rid of income taxes altogether! Again, based on the actions and comments of the state’s leadership, the likelihood of cutting other agencies or raising taxes are most likely to happen only if the state Legislature decides to be vindictive when Initiative 42 passes.

Concern #4: It is dangerous to place so much power in the hands of one judge in Hinds County. No one can say for sure what will happen or not happen.

An omniscient all powerful judge in Hinds County is another scare tactic used in an effort to defeat Initiative 42. No one can say for sure what will happen, and no one can promise what will or will not happen, but here are the facts about the chancery judge:

  1. Funding will not go before a chancery judge if the Legislature does its job and follows the law to fund education based on the MAEP formula;
  2. If a funding issue is brought before a chancery judge, it will be in Hinds County because the Legislature convenes in the city of Jackson, which is in Hinds County;
  3. Not that it should matter, but the chancery judge will not necessarily be black. Since there are two black judges and two white judges, there will be a 50/50 chance of a black or white judge hearing the case;
  4. “Adequate” funding has already been established by the 1997 law, so a judge will not decide what is meant by adequate;
  5. The judge will not determine how or where funding will be spent. Local school districts are responsible for the distribution of funds allotted to the district by the state; and
  6. Any decision made by the chancery judge can be appealed to the Mississippi State Supreme Court for the final decision.

Final Words:

I hope I have cleared up a little of the confusion. Come November 3, people will choose to accept the status quo as good enough for Mississippi, or they will vote for accountability for state lawmakers and education funding for our children and teachers. There is no in between. In the end, the decision will be left to each individual to decide what is best for them personally, what is best for the teachers and kids in the classroom, and ultimately what is best for Mississippi’s future. The one constant that everyone must remember is that there is little hope for a better tomorrow in Mississippi without at least an “adequate” education for our children.  Initiative 42 is a once in a lifetime chance for teachers, parents, and the citizens of Mississippi to make a difference in the future of our state. Hopefully, it is not a chance we will waste.

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD, October 31, 2015

Initiative 42: Are You Fed Up with being Manipulated Yet?

Initiative 42 is the result of nearly 200,000 Mississippians signing petitions to have an initiative placed on the November ballot to amend the state Constitution.   If passed, this citizen led initiative will hold the Mississippi Legislature accountable for keeping its promise to fully fund public schools, which the Legislature has fulfilled only twice in the past 18 years. That should be simple enough; however, Governor Phil Bryant, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves, and Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn have used their power and position to help confuse the public about the Initiative. Why? Such action is contrary to statements the Governor has made in the past regarding the public’s role in education. For example, in a December 2, 2014 article by The Associated Press, Governor Bryant said the “public” is in charge of education. But, if he truly believes the public is in charge of education, why is he campaigning against the charge of close to 200,000 Mississippians?   He has also advocated for parental choice in education. However, if he is pro parent choice, why does he oppose Initiative 42, which is supported by parents who have made a “choice” to stand up for public school funding? If he truly believes in parent choice and believes the public is in charge of education, why hasn’t he stepped aside and let the public decide the issue without his political interference?

The reason is simple! In maybe the truest statement by the Republican leadership since the Initiative 42 debate began, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves in an October 22 article by Valerie Wells, published in the Hattiesburg American, stated Initiative 42 is a struggle for power rather than funding. “It’s not about funding,” Reeves said. “It’s about power.” Although Republicans would like for the public to believe Initiative 42 is about Democrats versus Republicans, black versus white, or a power hungry chancery court judge in Hinds County usurping the sovereignty of the state, those are simply smokescreens! The truth is as Reeves stated, “It’s about power.” For the political leadership in Jackson, this issue is about the power and control of the people to hold the state Legislature accountable to the law versus the power and control of the state Legislature to do as it pleases with no boundaries or accountability.

Although fear of losing “power and control” may be at the heart of the Republican opposition to Initiative 42, we must be careful their struggle to maintain power does not overshadow the original purpose of the grassroots initiative led by the people of Mississippi. Power was the furthest thing from the minds of the citizens who signed the petitions to place Initiative 42 on the ballot. Their intent was to help struggling teachers reach all children – poor, middle class, rich, black, and white; their intent was to keep public education alive. Unfortunately, at times, that intent seems to have been lost beneath the clouds of political smoke swirling around such issues as top heavy school districts and school consolidation. We need to save those discussions for another day. Besides, no one in Jackson has any intentions of tackling those political time bombs in the near future; such issues are simply there to confuse and divide the public.

In an era where a good education is a prerequisite for success in life, the idea anyone would not support funding education is mind boggling. At a time when Mississippi needs everyone working together to pull our state from the clutches of poverty by creating an educated work force with more options than unemployment or a minimum wage existence, it is unbelievable we have elected officials who refuse to make education a priority. In a state as untrusting of government as Mississippi, it is beyond belief the citizens would tolerate a governor and state legislators who believe they are above the law. At a time when the public has the opportunity to remind the state Legislature that they are not only in charge of public education as Governor Bryant says, but they are in charge of their elected representatives in Jackson as well, it is unthinkable politicians might actually get their way and not be held accountable to the law.

As a state, we should be ashamed for having this debate. It is disgraceful some would put politics above the needs of our children. It is appalling some people look for excuses not to support education rather than look for reasons to support it. It is disappointing Mississippi citizens needed to sign petitions to put an initiative on the ballot to force elected officials to do their jobs and follow the law. And, it is reprehensible public officials would use or condone the use of half-truths, fabrications, and scare tactics to misguide the public. It is unfortunate, but the current struggle for power and education funding resembles a throwback to the Mississippi of the 1950’s and 1960’s rather than the new enlightened Mississippi we have struggled to become since those dark days.

In spite of this apparent throwback, we are a more enlightened people! We have made tremendous strides since the 50’s and 60’s, but as the Initiative 42 issue has shown, we still have a long way to go in regard to our attitudes toward education, race, and our future. Too much of our past biases still lurk in who we are as a state. Hopefully, additional time will further eradicate those prejudices from us – at least from our children. Nevertheless, I believe for the most part Mississippians are good people who strive to do what is right. We are proud people often recognized as the most benevolent state in the nation! Mississippians are quick to come to the aid of others, whether they are in this country or countries halfway around the world. Mississippians have always generously given to those in need. It so happens, our children are the ones in need this time. It is time we looked in our own backyard and shared our benevolence with our own family. It is time we stood by our children and their teachers; there is no better place to share your generosity and compassion than with those who live in your backyard.

I pray the people of Mississippi will stand up for Initiative 42 and not be led astray by professional politicians with political agendas that often exclude what is best for our state. With Initiative 42, public school education has a chance to be funded as required by law; without it, the chances are slim and none. If you don’t want to vote for Initiative 42, that is your right, but if that is your choice, why not at least do the next best thing and vote those politicians committed to sabotaging public education out of office? Citizens concerned for education and the future of Mississippi need to send a message one way or the other that we are fed up with political manipulation not only at the federal level but at the state level as well.

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD. October 29, 2015

Cut to the Chase: The Initiative 42 Bottom Line

Think about this for a moment:

If I had signed a contract with you 18 years ago for your services or products for $100.00 per year, you would expect to be paid $100.00 per year for that contract. Now suppose I had only paid you $100.00 a year twice in the past 18 years. For 14 of the remaining 16 years, I decided all I was going to pay you was $40.00 each year although the contract called for $100.00 each year. As you became more and more agitated that the contract was not being honored, I finally paid you $50.00 and $60.00 respectively for the past two years. On top of that, I boasted to everyone who would listen that in the last two years I had put more money into your business than in any time in history. Never mind, I short-changed you hundreds of dollars in 16 of the past 18 years that impacted your ability to attract quality employees, service your equipment, and repair your facilities. How well would that sit with you? If you had been consistently short-changed the money you were promised, what would you do? Wouldn’t you seek relief from the courts? Isn’t it a function of the courts to resolve such contractual malpractice?

The representation above illustrates exactly the bottom line for Initiative 42! In 1997, the Mississippi Legislature made a law (a promise) to fund Mississippi public school education based on the MAEP (Mississippi Adequate Education Program) formula, but they only honored the law twice over the next 18 years. I dare say, there are few people in this state or any other state who would have exercised the patience Mississippi educators exercised during those 18 years. In the business world and as private citizens, if someone refused to honor their monetary commitment to us, we would have sought relief through the courts long ago. However, educators did not because they kept hoping and praying the state Legislature would do the right thing and honor their commitment. Of course, they never did! So, since they repeatedly failed to honor their commitment to fund education, what recourse did legislators leave citizens and educators other than to go through the initiative process and seek relief through the courts? The legislators and their supporters can cry the citizens and educators are trying to circumvent the power of the Legislature by taking the funding issue to court all they want, but the truth is the initiative process is simply taking the next logical step to resolve a problem the Legislature created.

Initiative 42 is the result of the Mississippi Legislature’s failure to do its job! If legislators had honored their commitment (the law), there would not be a need for Initiative 42. But, year after year they have refused to honor the law! Governor Bryant can claim all he wants that historic amounts of money have been placed in education the past two years, but he cannot deny state legislators have failed to honor the law and fully fund MAEP during the same two years as well as in all but two of the preceding 16 years. They simply have not! As a result, nearly 200,000 Mississippi citizens signed a petition to get Initiative 42 on the ballot in a grassroots effort to get state legislators to honor their commitment to education. Even so, citizens and educators are hoping, even when Initiative 42 passes, that the legislators will do the right thing and honor the funding law rather than go to court. With Initiative 42, legislators will have the option of doing the right thing by following the law and fully funding the MAEP formula, or they can opt to ignore the law as they have done year after year and choose to send the funding issue to court. Under Initiative 42, whether a chancery court judge hears the issue or not is completely up to the state legislators.

Remember this, if you had a contract with someone to pay you for services, supplies or maintenance you provided, you would expect to be paid for those services. If that someone consistently refused to pay, eventually you would have no other recourse but to seek relief in the courts to get your money. Why shouldn’t school kids and teachers be entitled to the same relief? Also, you should think about this. What would happen if you refused to pay your state income taxes or ignored the income tax law completely? You can bet money your state government would not hesitate to fine you and drag you into court. So, if citizens must honor the law or face being taken to court, why shouldn’t their elected officials be expected to honor the law or face going to court as well? It is time we stopped hiding our heads in the sand while the Legislature picks and chooses the laws they want to honor. It’s time to pass Initiative 42, and make the Mississippi Legislature accountable to honoring the laws they pass.

JL

©Jack Linton, October 25, 2015

The Cat in the Hat Supports Initiative 42

I do not understand.
Why they say no way.
They signed on the line;
They agreed to pay.

But state Legislators refuse
To honor their education promise.
It doesn’t make sense
When it is such a simple premise!

See, it works like this,
Politicians make law
That everyone must follow
Even politicians and in-laws.

So, why the fuss?
It’s law; honor it!
Not to, doesn’t make sense
Not one little bit!

And then
Uncurling from his mat
Stretched and stood the Cat in the Hat!

We looked!
“It’s time,” said the Cat in the Hat.
We looked!
And saw a petition
In the hand of the Cat in the Hat!
And he said to us,
“Enough is enough, it’s as simple as that!”

“I know it’s hard,
And it won’t be easy.
So, don’t be afraid,
And please don’t get queasy!”

“We’ll place a petition on the ballot,”
Said the cat.
“For education we’ll take a stand.”
Said the Cat in the Hat.
“It’s the only option left to do.
Education won’t be adequately funded
Without Initiative 42.”

The teachers and children
Did not know what to say;
They’d never had a friend
To look after them that way.

But Governor Bryant said, “No! No!
Make that cat go away!
Tell that Cat in the Hat
We ain’t gonna pay!
He should not be here.
He should not be about!
He should not be here
Somebody please kick him out!”

“Now! Now! Have no fear.
Have no fear!” said the cat.
“It’s not a trick; it’s not bad,”
Said the Cat in the Hat.
“A little petition is all it is
With nearly 200,000 Mississippi names
Standing up for education
Tired of playing political games!”

“Throw it out!” said Tate Reeves.
“It’s not fair; not fair at all!”
“Throw it out!” cried Phillip Gunn.
“Initiative 42 will lead to our fall!”

“Have no fear!” said the cat.
“Initiative 42 rights a wrong.
Do your job, nothing to fear;
See a judge if the same old song.
Fund education as you promised,
And let that be that.
Fund education! We’ll leave you alone,”
Said the Cat in the Hat.

“Two can play that game!”
Said Reeves and Gunn.
“We’ll add confusion to the mix!
Initiative 42A will make it fun!”

“Look at this!
Look what you’ve done!” said the cat.
“The people don’t know if they’re between the A or T
Much less where they’re AT!
Should they choose 42 or 42A?
My oh my, what should they do?
You’re the Grinches who stole Christmas!
Mr. Gunn and Reeves, shame on you!

And look!
Now they’re running TV ads
That would scare even Stephen King!
Just to make Initiative 42 look bad!

Oh, no.
That is not all…
They tell us a black Democrat judge
Will cause Mississippi to fall!
He’ll spend school money as he pleases,
He’ll give it to his favorite schools!
And they tell us this
Because they think we’re all fools!

“But, have no fear,”
Said the cat.
“Initiative 42 is on the ballot,”
Said the Cat in the Hat.
“The ballot may look tricky,
But Mississippians are not fools;
They will see through the smoke
And vote for Initiative 42!”

The teachers and children
Did not know what to say;
They’d never had a friend
To look after them that way.

Adapted from The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss by Jack Linton (October 24, 2015)

Ten Things I learned this Past Week about Supporting Initiative 42

This past week my previous blog, “Initiative 42: Misconceptions, Lies, and THE TRUTH,” lit up like a Christmas tree. My blog has some public outreach, but it is primarily written for friends and those they share it with when they deem it worthy of sharing. Occasionally it will also be picked up by other blogs or news groups. So, I was surprised by the literally thousands of visitors who read my blog this past week. The comments I received were a mixed bag of support for Initiative 42 as well as opposition, and I enjoyed the interaction for the most part. I was truly amazed at some of the things some people believe about the Initiative as well as what they believe about education in general. The amount of credibility given to hearsay was astounding, and I certainly did not realize there are so many legal and state Constitution experts milling around Mississippi.

However, I did learn some interesting things about people and their attitudes toward education. Believe me when I say, it was sometimes frightening. One thing I learned for sure is that Mississippi education needs a public relations person. It is apparent that many people never hear about the good things happening in Mississippi education; all they hear about are the negatives, but maybe that is all they want to hear. For example, look at some of the things readers taught me this past week about Initiative 42 and education as a whole in Mississippi.

Ten Things I learned this Past Week about Supporting Initiative 42

  1. I learned there are a lot of good people in Mississippi who are confused about Initiative 42.   Thank you Governor Bryant, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves, and Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn for your leadership in misleading and confusing the issue;
  2. I learned some people are in favor of withholding education funding until such time they can be assured the money already available for education is spent wisely. Of course, that is like withholding money for maintenance on your roof until it caves in. There are state agencies responsible for fiscal responsibility, so why not demand those agencies monitor school expenditures more closely, and go after the districts wasting money (if any), but don’t punish all schools.  If people have firsthand knowledge of waste in schools, they should expose it and bring it to everyone’s attention, but don’t condemn all school districts for the actions of a few.  It is insanity to withhold education funds at the expense of children;
  3. I learned Jesus Christ could have written Initiative 42, and some people would still find excuses not to support it;
  4. I learned there are people who care more about Democrat vs Republican than they do about educating children;
  5. I learned there are teachers who are riding the fence on Initiative 42. It is unbelievable, but there are teachers who naively believe the scare tactics and half-truths portrayed as facts on television, who believe the negative hearsay, and who have made little, if any, effort to look at the issue for themselves. It is also unbelievable that there are educators who teach children to read, research, and be critical thinkers, but they don’t practice what they teach and preach;
  6. I learned that there are more lawyer wannabes in Mississippi than you can shake a stick at, and they do not mind sharing with you what they know as the legal gospel;
  7. I learned that Mississippi has an abundance of state Constitution experts even though these experts may have read only a tiny portion of the Constitution, none of it at all, or their expertise is based on what they have been told;
  8. I learned from these self-appointed legal and Constitution experts that a chancery judge has the authority to hire and fire teachers, consolidate schools, pick and choose the schools that will be funded, shut down other state agencies at his/her discretion, raise taxes, change the state flag to the LGBT flag, and forbid Santa Clause to fly over Mississippi air space.  They taught me the power of the chancery judge is unlimited, and if Mississippi doesn’t strike down Initiative 42, the chancery judge in Hinds County will have the power to disband the state Legislature, send the governor packing, and set himself up as the supreme governing authority in Mississippi;
  9. I learned many people can’t stop thinking about themselves and their pocketbooks long enough to understand that education is expensive but ignorance is even more expensive;
  10. BUT, the biggest thing I learned was that supporting Initiative 42 is well worth the fuss and putting up with the unfounded hysteria. This past week reinforced what I have always known – KIDS and TEACHERS are worth the fight!

With all the huffing and puffing surrounding Initiative 42, it is important to remember the Initiative is about teachers and kids, and it is about making education a priority in Mississippi. It is NOT about school administrators, school consolidation, a judge in Hinds County, or any other smokescreen the education naysayers insert into the discussion. It is also important to understand making education a priority is up to the voters for one reason and one reason only – the Mississippi Legislature has proven year after year that education IS NOT their priority. My only purpose in writing about this issue is to encourage teachers and parents to take a stand for education. Although Mississippi will continue to have school regardless of the outcome of the vote for Initiative 42, the question is will the schools have funding to give our children a quality education, or will Mississippi continue to treat education as an afterthought. Through Initiative 42 nearly 200,000 Mississippi citizens have already petitioned for education to be treated as a priority, and now it is time for all citizens and especially teachers to stand up and join the fight. The state Legislature is counting on teachers being timid, frightened, and apathetic on this issue. I sincerely pray that for once teachers will stand together and prove them wrong.

JL

©Jack Linton, October 17, 2015