Amanda Koonlaba, an art teacher in Tupelo, Mississippi, explains here that Mississippi is in a pitched battle to fund its public schools adequately. The issue is joined in a political struggle over Initiative 42, which would require the adequate funding of public education. Initiative 42 is opposed by the forces of privatization, which prefer to open privately managed charters, hand out vouchers for religious schools, and block any increase in funding for the public schools.

Koonlaba writes:

In 1997, the Mississippi Legislature passed a law promising to provide each public school district in Mississippi enough financial support to furnish an adequate education to every K-12 student. That law is called the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP), and has only been followed twice since its was passed. This has resulted in a shortfall of over a billion dollars since 2009. That is a billion dollars that would have provided textbooks, technology, and certified teachers. Instead, Mississippi’s students have just had to do without.

In 2014, nearly 200,000 Mississippians from every county and both political parties took a stand and signed petitions to have Initiative 42 added to the ballot on November 3, 2015. This would amend the state constitution in a way that makes public education a priority instead of an afterthought. Initiative 42 closes a loophole that has allowed the Legislature to break the MAEP law for so long.

After citizens signed these petitions, the very first thing the Legislature did when they went back into session was to pass an alternative to Initiative 42.

The alternative was intended to confuse voters, to protect the status quo, and to prevent any increase in funding for public schools.

The leaders of the opposition to Initiative 42 have ties to the Koch Brothers and Americans for Prosperity.

And ALEC, the enemy of the public good, is involved too.

This spring, the Legislature passed a school voucher bill straight from the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) playbook. ALEC helps corporations, idealogues, and their political allies pass legislation that privatizes schools. This legislation is written behind closed doors and then passed around from state to state. All a lawmaker has to do is fill in the blanks with the name of their particular state. It benefits large corporations and directs public tax dollars to private entities. ALEC is funded by the Koch Brothers. Interestingly, Jeb Bush, who is also closely connected to Americans for Prosperity, attended [Governor] Phil Bryant’s signing of this bill in Jackson.

The passage of Initiative 42 is crucial for the future of the children and public schools of Mississippi. It is a chance for the public to say NO to the 1% that rule ALEC and the other privatization advocates.

It is a chance for citizens and local communities to stand up for their public schools and stop the corporate assault on them.

Koonlaba writes:

Initiative 42 is a light in the darkness of this attack on Mississippi’s public schools. It is a chance for the citizens of Mississippi to stand up to the Legislature and remind them that they work for citizens not privatizers. Mississippians want their public schools to remain public and be fully funded.

However, Mississippians need help sorting through what the Executive Editor of the Clarion Ledger, Sam R. Hall, called “a load of horse crap” from the opposition to Initiative 42. Luckily, several groups are working to help Mississippians do this to get the initiative passed.

The Parent’s Campaign and the Mississippi Association of Educators have been working to educate the public on the initiative. 42 for Better Schools is the actual campaign to pass Initiative 42 and is a coalition of Mississippi public schools supporters and organizations. A grassroots group called Fed Up with 50th emerged to support school funding issues. They write on their Facebook page that

“We are law-abiding, tax-paying Mississippi voters—Republicans and Democrats—and we are FED UP! We are FED UP with failing schools, low graduation rates, poor teacher support, crowded classrooms, crumbling buildings, not enough textbooks or computers—all the things that make us 50th in education year after year. More than anything, we are FED UP that our legislators continue to BREAK THE LAW and underfund our schools, STEALING from our children and SELLING OUT their future to special interests.”
If Initiative 42 passes on November 3, Mississippians will have won a major battle but will have much work still left to do. If it doesn’t pass, the war will be lost.

Initiative 42 is a chance for Mississippians to tell the corporate entrepreneurs that their children and their public schools are not for sale.

If they stand together, the people of Mississippi can beat the 1%.