Every year Mississippi writes a “check” to our students. Our state agreed to write this yearly check back in 1997 when it made the Miss. Adequate Education Program (MAEP) one of our laws. The legislature could change the law and make the check amount smaller, but they have not chosen to do so in the years sense. You see the law is only for writing a check just big enough to cover the minimum amount for an “adequate” education, nothing extra. I suppose no one has the nerve to go on record as actually being against writing the check every year for less than this minimum amount.
The bad part is that every year since the checks started being written, except for two election years, the checks are just no good. They are “bad checks” not able to be cashed for the agreed upon amount. Every year there are excuses and for many years people seemed to believe the excuses and the “promise” that next year when the excuse for that year had passed the checks would once again be good and could be cashed by the students. So they waited for 18 years.
But, then people began to notice that hundreds of millions were going out as new tax cuts to different establishments. They also noticed that the state began to put money into its “savings account” or “rainy day fund” as they called it. Yet they still told the students of our state that the checks could not be cashed for the full amount. The state was giving money away on tax cuts, filling up the savings account, and talking about giving away even more of the state’s money in the coming years…all the while not paying its bills so its commitment could be good to its students.
The people who supported the students and schools thought about trying to take the bad check to court to get the courts to make the state pay its bill. But, the court said it had no power because the state constitution did not give it a way to enforce the law and make the state honor its check.
So with a stack of 16 bad checks written to Mississippi students, many in the state said something had to be done. They decided to add a line to the state constitution specifying the state had to fund the amount of the check each year. The change would also have a line in it giving the court the ability to get involved should the state still not honor its commitment. The state could still change the MAEP law anytime it wanted. It could just no longer write big checks that sounded good, but which were worthless when cashed.
That proposed change is known as Initiative 42 and over 200,000 of our citizens signed a petition to get it on the ballot. Tomorrow you can tell the state that it is no longer acceptable to write bad checks to our schools and students by voting YES TO APPROVE a change to the constitution and then YES ON INITIATIVE 42. All that it will do is make our legislature make good on its own laws or to change its own laws, nothing more.
I will be voting YES to approve Initiative 42 because it is the right thing to do for our students and the future of our state. When business as usual means not honoring the commitments made to our students, it is no longer acceptable to me and I hope you will join me in this effort!