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.
©Jack Linton, October 25, 2015