Tag Archives: Republican

EdBuild: Secrecy and the End Game

          It is January 2017, and the assault on public school education in Mississippi continues.  The Republican push to privatize public education is at full throttle, and once again funding for public schools will most likely fall far below the amount required by state law.  In fact, the Joint Legislative Budget recommendation for the 2017-18 school year is 180.9 million dollars short of the amount required to fully fund the MAEP (Mississippi Adequate Education Program) formula.  However, if state leaders get their way, shortchanging MAEP may not be an issue much longer.  In the fall of 2016, they hired an out of state group (EdBuild) to study the formula and make recommendations for changes.  After the Initiative 42 battle over MAEP funding in 2015, most public school educators had been expecting such a move to rewrite or eliminate the formula.  However, the clandestine approach state leaders took to hire EdBuild as well as their efforts to block the public from gaining access to knowledge about the scope of the consulting firm’s work, truly troubled public school educators and their supporters.

When the public discovered, state leaders had hired EdBuild to study and recommend changes to the MAEP formula, they asked to see the EdBuild contract.   However, they were denied access to the contract until the state attorney general issued an opinion forcing the state to allow public access.  Why would state leaders deny the public information they were entitled to receive?  Why the secrecy?  Also, why did state leaders deliberately duck the public hearing to discuss the contract?  They initiated the hiring, so they should have been available to answer questions about the hiring.  Why wouldn’t they address the concerns of citizens face to face in the hearing?  Furthermore, why was the hearing cut short after 75 minutes?  Why were only a select few allowed to speak?  Why were people from the general public who had made arrangements to get off work to attend the meeting and address EdBuild officials unable to comment?  What were the motives behind the actions of state leaders?  What motivated them to be secretive and evasive?

The motive behind their actions was simple!  MAEP has been a pain in the side of state leaders and legislators for years, and they want it to go away.  Doing away with MAEP for a new formula or rewriting the old formula would reduce challenges to education funding as well as give Republican legislators added leverage in their quest to push forward with parent choice and privatization of public schools.  Rewriting the formula to include charter schools and vouchers as well as provide assistance to private schools and homeschools would seal the deal for state support of parent choice and privatization of public schools and open the door to ultimately dismantling public schools.

For state leaders in Jackson, dismantling public school education is the end game.  The secrecy they created around the hiring of EdBuild, along with their reluctance to be open and honestly address the concerns of the public regarding that hire, speaks volumes about their intent.  EdBuild’s January 2017 report only added coals to the fire.  In the report, the firm made several recommendations that, if adopted, could have dire consequences for public education in Mississippi.

First, EdBuild recommended Mississippi adopt a new student base cost.  Under that recommendation, the student base cost would not include an annual adjustment to account for inflation.  Without an adjustment for inflation, funding that may have been adequate initially would, over time, become grossly inadequate to support public schools.  Under the recommendation, increases in student costs would only be made at the discretion of the state legislature.  Based on the Mississippi Legislature’s history for  funding public education, the initial amount set for the student base cost would most likely remain the same indefinitely or more precisely forever.

In another recommendation, the consulting firm recommended the state decrease the state’s responsibility for funding public education by placing more of the burden on the local communities.  I imagine there was a great deal of back slapping and high fives in Republican chambers at the state capitol when they heard that recommendation.  When adopted, such a recommendation would significantly increase the amount of local taxes citizens pay in their communities to support local schools.  Under this recommendation, the burden to fund public school education would be greatly reduced at the state level and transferred to the local communities.  Locally, citizens would see significant increases in the amounts they pay for car tags, property taxes, and other personal taxes such as sales taxes.  The legislature would have less of a role in appropriating public education funds, but it is a sure bet they would maintain or even increase their authority to dictate how much local money individual school districts would have to funnel to charter schools, vouchers, and private schools/academies.

The EdBuild report also stated that [In Mississippi] “Ratios of students to guidance counselors, teachers, and librarians are all significantly lower than the national average.”  Therefore, EdBuild recommended the ratio of student to staff/faculty should be monitored closely and maintained at the national average of 16:1.  This recommendation would open the door to reduce the number of guidance counselors, teachers, and school librarians.  Based on the data reported by EdBuild, librarian positions would most likely be the first cut from public schools.

These are just a few of the EdBuild recommendations and their consequences if adopted.  There are other recommendations such as changing the definition of “poverty” and how it is calculated.  Presently, socioeconomic status is determined by “free and reduced lunches,” but under the EdBuild recommendation such status would be determined at least partially by the United States Census.  Since EdBuild has yet to run numbers to compare the impact of the new definition versus the old definition on individual school districts, it is unclear how such a change may impact schools.  However, one thing that is glaringly clear about this recommendation as well as the other recommendations is that it will not necessarily place more money into public school classrooms unless maybe the classroom conforms to the new definition of “poverty.”  That is strange since legislators say the primary reason a revision or new public education funding formula is needed is to put more money into ALL classrooms.  They claim public school classrooms are suffering under the MAEP formula.  Of course, anyone, not drinking the Kool-Aid, knows classrooms are suffering because they are annually underfunded by the Mississippi Legislature.

State leaders contend the challenge to adequately fund public education will become a thing of the past once the old MAEP formula is rewritten or a new funding law is written to take its place.  However, why should the citizens of Mississippi harbor any hope or expectations that legislators will follow a new or revised funding law, especially since funding will most likely remain at the Legislature’s discretion?  That is where EdBuild’s recommendations come into play.  A truth about the recommendations, that no one can dispute, is that if adopted, the recommendations will make it easier for the Legislature to continue to fund public education at nine figure deficits.  Under a revised or new formula, it will be much easier to hide or justify inadequate education funding.  At least, that is what the Republican leadership in Jackson is hoping to achieve by hiring EdBuild to recommend changes to the MAEP formula.

If EdBuild’s recommendations are adopted and implemented, within a few short years, no one will remember MAEP and its promise of adequate funding for public schools.  Nine figure deficits in public education will become the norm since funding will be tied to a cost factor that is perpetually locked.  As a result, the public will continue to wrongly associate struggling public schools with incompetence and mismanagement when in truth their struggles will more likely be the result of inadequate funding.

The end game is the desire for parent choice and privatization will escalate among the public, and the Republican leadership in Jackson will have won.  The major problem is thousands of poor and middle class children will be stranded within the crumbling infrastructure of the public school system unable to meet the selective demands of charter and private schools and without the means to take advantage of vouchers.  The end game for Mississippi is a cheap labor force, a status quo of the “haves” and the “have nots,” and an everlasting home at the bottom of prosperity.

JL

©Jack Linton, January 24, 2017

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Three Kinds of Facts

“Just the facts, mam,” Joe Friday, Dragnet.

There are three kinds of facts – my facts, your facts, and their facts – and somewhere in between lies the truth.  In today’s society, people embrace the facts that come easiest or the facts they want to believe.  Therefore, truth does not exist outside my facts, your facts, or their facts, and that, my friend, is a fact that results in a factiction.

Today’s Factictions

  1. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are in cahoots to ensure she wins the Presidency;
  2. In 2016, the Mississippi Legislature passed House Bill 1523, which protected certain religious freedoms and banned Dirt Devil and Rainbow vacuum cleaners;
  3. Bill Clinton says Hillary likes it rough; their breakfast table is made of rough-hewed planks;
  4. In Washington D.C., Republicans are only permitted to use elevators that go up, and Democrats can only use elevators that go down;
  5. After over twenty years, a research team sponsored by Republican Conservatives for the Purification of America (RCPA) concluded Jesus was Jewish;
  6. Supreme Court Justices are required to be blind or at least sight impaired;
  7. Hillary Clinton’s issues with her health are an attempt to get the sympathy vote;
  8. Donald Trump has backed off making Mexico pay for his border wall. He now plans to import The Great Wall of China to the Mexico/USA border and have the Chinese pay for it;
  9. The reason Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton despise each other is because they dated in college; and
  10. The 2016 Presidential campaign is actually a Saturday Night Live skit.

My facts, your facts, and their facts, and somewhere in between lies a truth we are blind to or choose to ignore.  Unfortunately, the resulting factiction is the present foundation of politics and civil unrest in America.

JL

©Jack Linton, October 3, 2016

Silver Spoons, Plagiarism, & Arrogance: The Gateway to Improving Public Schools

Despite the controversy swirling around Melania Trump’s plagiarism Monday night and the alleged plagiarism thrown Donald, Jr.’s way Tuesday night, I thought both of them presented themselves well at the Republican National Convention, especially Don, Jr.  He was well prepared, articulate, and came across as a strong future candidate for public office.  In fact, he even stuck his foot in his mouth like a true politician when he spouted off about the dire condition of public schools in The United States.  A guy raised with a silver spoon in his mouth and educated at a $50,000 dollar per year boarding school should be the last person to speak about problems in public schools, especially when that part of his speech, as his principal speech writer later admitted, was borrowed.  Borrowed or plagiarized, every schoolboy, even the ones in public schools – the schools that Junior said are run “like Soviet-era department stores that are run for the benefit of the clerks and not the customers, for the teachers and administrators and not the students,” – know to give credit where credit is due, but maybe schools that cost more per year to attend than most Americans earn per year are not so superior to public schools.  I am sure many are, but I am also confident there are many public schools that can compete with the elite schools of the rich as well.  You cannot assume a school is excellent by its price tag no more than you can assume a school is inferior by its “public” tag.

I agree improvements are needed in many of the nation’s public schools, but as a former private school and public school educator, I am tired of hearing people (mostly Republican politicians) criticize public schools without also acknowledging there are many excellent public schools.  Yes, there are public schools that are horrible, but to lump all public schools into one large cesspool of despair is wrong and blatantly dishonest.  It is also transparently deceitful for Republicans or anyone else to propose plans of improvement more aligned to disembowelment of public schools than improving them.  The present Republican plan of taking money from public schools and giving it to big business, loosely controlled charter schools, and school privatization ventures will not cure the problems in America’s public schools.  If anything, such actions will eventually break the backbone of the American public school system, but that is likely a part of the plan as well.  The current Republican solution to improving public schools is little more than thinly disguised re-segregation of public schools.  The Republican call for neighborhood schools simply means white neighborhoods should have their schools and black neighborhoods should have their schools.  Such a plan along with so called parental choice plans will eventually lead this nation to a greater gap between the haves and have nots – only this time it will impact white children as well as black children.  When that happens, Republicans and the nation as a whole will not have to worry about public schools being “an elevator to the middle class” as Donald, Jr. stated in his speech since there won’t be a middle class!

Most likely, Donald Trump, Jr. has spent very little time, if any, in a public school, good or bad, but yet he speaks as an authority as to what transpires within them.  Has he or his father ever walked in the shoes of a teacher or a school administrator?  No, they are businessmen, and they can no more tell public school teachers and school administrators how to improve their schools than teachers and administrators can tell them how to run their corporations.  Schools are not businesses!  In the business world the Trumps have the luxury and resources to pick the best materials to make their business a success, and even then, they sometimes fail and have to claim bankruptcy.  Teachers and administrators do not have the same luxury and resources.  They are dependent on the meager funding provided at the local and state levels, and their success is largely dependent on the children conceived within the boundaries of the school district.  Private schools like The Hill School, where Don, Jr. attended school, can choose students they want based on academic standing, family affluence and the thickness of mama and daddy’s wallet.  Public schools do not have such choices!  They must serve all children regardless of academic standing and family pedigree as well as serve the children of mamas and daddies without a wallet.  They must take the kids they are dealt regardless of background, physical and/or mental state, and home environment.  Unlike a business, public schools cannot choose to work only with the best raw materials; they must do the best they can with what they get often with little parental or political support.  Teachers and administrators in our public schools are brain surgeons on a thirty minute time clock with less than adequate surgical tools and resources.  For the most part, they are devoted, caring, hardworking people working in a bankrupt social and political system.  So, yes, it bothers me that Donald Trump, Jr. has the audacity to lump all public schools together as failures and talk negatively about public schools that he knows little if anything about other than what a speech writer wrote for him.

Don, Jr. said, “Growing up, my siblings and I were truly fortunate to have choices and options that others don’t have.  We want all Americans to have those same opportunities.”  Let’s be honest, and look beyond convention rhetoric.  Donald, Jr. and his siblings had the choices they had because they have a rich father.  The idea or assumption the Trumps or anyone else in the Republican party will dig deep into their pockets to provide poor or middle class children the same opportunities for an education as the rich is preposterous, especially when you consider that Republicans consistently refuse to fund even an adequate education for poor and middle class children in Republican dominated states such as Mississippi.

Maybe, Donald Trump will be different if elected, but I have yet to hear him say anything about education that the Republican Party does not want to hear.  I sincerely hope he is at least a notch above the kind of education reform Mississippi has in recent years been subjected to at the hands of state Republicans – reform that includes bullying educators, refusal to fund an adequate education for public school children, even though it is the law, funneling public school dollars into unproven charters and privatization, and bankrupting the state fiscal system that students, parents, and educators depend upon to support public school education.

If Donald Trump wins the election and truly wants to improve public schools, he needs to get with public school teachers and administrators personally and listen to them; he needs to get with education researchers and universities and listen to them; he needs to listen to these people because, like him, they also want to improve public schools in America.  When it comes to public school education, he needs to stop listening to the business world and the politicians and do what he has always done – surround himself with knowledgeable people in education that includes people who have actually taught in public schools – good and bad.  He needs to work with education leaders and education innovators who recognize the good things that are happening in education and how to replicate them; he needs to work with education leaders and innovators who understand the problems schools face and how to best address those problems; he needs to work with education leaders and innovators who recognize the educational needs of children; and, he needs to work with education leaders and innovators who recognize and understand the barriers keeping schools from meeting those needs.  What we do not need is another Republican or Democrat who thinks he knows the problem and how to fix it without including educators in the discussion.  What we do not need is more education rhetoric from Mr. Trump, his son, or anyone else including politicians and educators.

When it comes to the education of our nation’s children, educators across this nation have had a belly full of political leaders who talk the talk but fail to walk the walk .  It will take more than a big ego spewing generalities to bring about needed changes in public schools; it will take a big man who has the wisdom, vision, and guts to stand against a political system and public handicapped by tunnel vision when it comes to public school education.  It will take an extraordinary leader to put a stop to the norm of browbeating educators into humbled submission.  It will take a leader with high expectations for success, but an even higher appreciation for the humanity and educational expertise of teachers and school administrators devoted to the children of this country.  Is Donald Trump that man?  I don’t know.  Like thousands of educators, I am waiting to see, if silver spoons, plagiarism, and arrogance are the gateway to improving public school education, or if someone will finally realize it takes people who know what they are doing and talking about, hard work, and common sense to bring about improvement.

JL

Jack Linton, July 21, 2016

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

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

Under the Dome: CBS’s Thinly Disguised Look at the Republican Party

I intended to watch the recent Republican debate, but instead I watched Under the Dome, a science fiction television show about a town trapped under a mysterious dome. From what I have read and heard about the debate though, I didn’t miss much since it served little purpose other than to confirm what most people knew or at least suspected about the Republican Party – the GOP is a fragmented mess. Of course, the Democratic Party with controversy constantly swirling around Hillary Clinton and the Party not knowing how to take Bernie Sanders at this point is not much better off. Things may change for both parties over the next few months, but for now I would give the edge to the Democrats in the next presidential election. Unless the Republican Party gets firmly behind a candidate soon, come convention time it may be too late. As of now, the chances of a Republican being sworn into office in 2017 are about as good as the chances for the science fiction television show, Under the Dome, becoming reality – slim and none.

Speaking of Under the Dome, if you watch the show, you have no doubt noticed the show’s parallels to the current state of affairs in our country, especially in regards to the Republican Party. It is really uncanny! In the television show, a giant bubble or dome has dropped out of the sky over the town of Chester’s Mill, thereby isolating the town from the rest of the world. In the real world, apparently a giant dome also dropped over the Republican Party a few years back, which effectively isolated it from the rest of the world, especially the people the Party claims to serve. Like the people of Chester’s Mill, the Republican Party is suffocating in a world of floating ideologies and in-fighting. Of course, as is the case in Chester’s Mill, the level of incompetence in leadership is at the heart of the pugilism.

There is no clear leadership in Chester’s Mill or the Republican Party although Chester’s Mill and the GOP are both swamped with “wanna be’s.” Due to inability to make decisions, weak leadership skills, or character flaws that often border on the absurd, front runners for leadership positions in both Chester’s Mill and the Republican Party can never quite get it together and take control due to their often acidic, corrosive leadership styles. This does not mean the Democrats don’t suffer from some of the same issues, but at least with them it seems to be confined to two or three knuckleheads and not necessarily the whole Party. However, the most striking parallel between Under the Dome and the Republican Party is that the people in Chester’s Mill and the Republican Party have been duped into believing their leaders care more about them than they actually do. In TV land’s Chester’s Mill and the Republican Party, the people are simply pawns to be manipulated at the will of an alien presence.

The idea of an alien presence within the Republican Party is where some might argue the parallels end, but this point may actually be the strongest of the parallels. In Chester’s Mill there is the ever present alien nemesis lurking in the background thwarting whoever attempts to step forward as a true leader and savior of the town. The Republicans, on the other hand, also have an evil alien nemesis making life difficult for them – themselves. The present day Republican Party may be one of the most self-destructive parties in history. They work with no one; apparently not even within their own ranks! They do not understand that compromise for the sake of the people is not all bad, but on that point there is room under the dome for Democrats as well. “My way or the highway” attitudes are stifling both political parties and suffocating the country. In American politics today, “people over party” is an alien concept.

Of course, there are those who will take exception to want I am saying, but when was the last time you actually heard a politician, Democrat or Republican, lay out a plan of action to move our nation forward rather than point fingers of blame. Okay, I get it! The socialist ideas of the Democrats are driving our country into the ground, and the rhetoric of Republican anarchists is tearing our country apart! Points to both sides! Now, which Party is going to take the lead and provide a legitimate platform to show the people what they plan to do about America’s problems? Or, will both parties continue to throw insults and blame at each other and try to win the presidency with a salty tongue? My best bet is that both Democrats and Republicans will continue to operate from under their respective domes.

JL

©Jack Linton, August 11, 2015