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Hearings scheduled on Mississippi school funding initiatives

JACKSON — Mississippians will get to express their opinions about this year’s proposed school funding initiatives during a series of public hearings in late summer.

The hearings, announced Tuesday by Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, will run from Aug. 11 through Sept. 8. The initiatives will appear on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Citizen-led Initiative 42 would require lawmakers to fund “an adequate and efficient system of free public schools.” People could sue if funding falls short.

The Legislature also placed on the ballot an alternative, Initiative 42-A, which has since been disputed. It originally said lawmakers must fund “an effective system of free public schools.”

Oxford parent Adrian Shipman sued in late March, asking a judge in Hinds County, the seat of state government, to rewrite the title for the alternative that legislators put on the ballot. Shipman said voters could become confused between the ballot titles of the two proposals because they were similarly worded.

Judge Winston Kidd rewrote the title of 42-A to say the Legislature should fund “effective public schools” but specify that people could not ask a judge or order legislators to follow the school funding law.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and Republican legislative leaders challenged Kidd’s action, and the Mississippi Supreme Court will hear arguments June 9 about how the title of 42-A should appear on the November ballot.

The fight over what will appear on the ballot is important because the wording could determine whether voters accept one of the school funding proposals or reject them both. If one proposal is approved, it will affect how legislators set budgets for schools and other state services.

The Mississippi Adequate Education Program is a budget formula designed to give schools enough money to meet midlevel academic standards. Legislators have fully funded the formula only two years since it was put into law in 1997.

The hearings, each starting at 5:30 p.m., will be held:

» Aug. 11 at the Jackson State University e-Center in Jackson.

» Aug. 13 at the Gale Center in Hernando.

» Aug. 17 at the Link Centre in Tupelo.

» Aug. 20 at Temple Theater in Meridian.

» Aug. 27 at Delta State University’s Bologna Performing Arts Center in Cleveland.

» Sept. 1 at the Jackie Dole Sherrill Community Center in Hattiesburg.

» Sept. 3 at Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Biloxi.

» Sept. 8 at the Mississippi School for the Arts auditorium in Brookhaven.

 

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