Turning 40 – Some Ramblings and Reflections

So I turned 40, which I guess deserves a bit of reflection. All in all, it doesn’t seem so bad and, as they say, certainly better than the alternative. I will say that age has maybe taught me a bit about life and maybe happiness obtained from living it. If blessed with forty more years, I expect to revise and hopefully learn more lessons along the way. But, these are a few brief observations and conclusions I have reached at this point in my journey.

I have learned to be a little more comfortable with my own quirks over the years to be a bit more content to be myself with less worry about how things are perceived by everyone around me. There does seem to be a bit of truth to the saying that “those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.” We are all works in progress. Hopefully, we are all trying to become the best versions of ourselves possible. With this imperfection being a universal truth, letting how others perceive you take up much of your attention is a poor use of time. It seems more important to be honest, as long as that honesty is not simply an effort to draw attention to yourself or obtain a reaction from others.

I have learned that human nature is such that all too many of the people we interact with on a daily basis are most interested in how any interaction with others can benefit themselves personally. Whether some direct benefit is on their mind or they are simply perceiving you might be able to help them in some way down the road, people who are truly your friends without this return on investment are few in number. However, you cannot let this prevent you from still trying to be kind to other people and to help them as best you can. Happiness in life seems to be being as good to others as you can in spite of the fact many will inevitably not remember it and/or will not readily return the favor. This is just human nature, and it seems to me that age teaches you that you cannot let it bother you in the least or be used as an excuse to quit treating people in general as you want to be treated. True friendships will be few in number, but you have to keep on trying to treat others as you would like to be treated with the understanding those few true friendships will be valuable diamonds discovered along the way and are definitely worth all of the effort.

I have hopefully learned that simply being around and influencing your children, spouse, and other family is much more fulfilling that I ever imagined when I was young. You start out in early adulthood wanting to change the world. But, that drive is thinking of big things or events that you can accomplish and often considers little about how family can fit into this equation. Only with a little age do you begin to realize that the single largest impact any of us can hope to leave to influence the world positively will be in our children and other family members. I am still enough of an idealist that I have not lost my desire to have a positive impact on things through my career path and in other areas. But, you will have struck a poor bargain, if you trade the pursuit of these things for the chance to be an active part of the lives of your own family. As in all of these regards, I am not perfect, but I shudder to think of the joy and fulfillment I would have missed by not taking the time to have a good conversation with my own children and trying to experience them as they are developing. None of the barns, buildings, or other things built by those who came before me are standing for long, but the ideas and lessons they left behind are still influencing the world through me and those other family members who knew those great individuals. This is really the only lasting legacy most of us has any hope of leaving behind that might make the world a better place.

The world we live in can be a tough place. It is even tougher on you, if you try to be different in any way from the status quo. This is something I think one learns too, along the way. No matter how pure your motivations and no matter the positive results, there is always a reason that some things are the way they are, and there will be a push back when that existing order is changed in any way. Being a rebel for the thrill and rush of rebellion is worth little in life. It will only hurt you and increase this type of push back. But, something real and positive that stands to benefit those around you can and is sometimes worth the push back. Age just teaches you that this is natural and inevitable, and, while not something that should be sought out, has to be worth it on its on merits, because the effort may have costs. Doing what you think is for the good and treating others fairly as best you can determine, without regard to how it may affect you, has to be something you can look back upon with fondness and is worth the cost, if you truly believed in what you were doing was good and right. Sometimes your judgements about these things will be faulty, but a mistaken belief like this with a pure motivation is still something you can feel good about. Being able to look at yourself in the morning in the mirror without shying away is worth a lot, but rest assured their will be costs, even when your efforts were not on a grand scale.

So, I guess that is about it. These are my big reflections on turning 40. Why share them? Well, perhaps, they will benefit someone else as they encounter the bumps of life and attempt to find their place in this world. I hope that anyone who reads these descriptions realizes that I am not describing my perfect efforts or my perfect understanding of the lessons of life. No, the point is that my actions more often than not fell quite short of perfection. Some times my motivations were not what they should have been. Yet, it is the mistakes then, the mistakes now, and the mistakes that you and I will inevitably make in the future that hopefully will allow us to continually get better. Getting better, bit by bit, is the best we can hope for and something we can never afford to give up upon, if we are to stay motivated to live the type of life we need to live in whatever time the good Lord decides we have to live it.

– Clint Stroupe

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PDF Files of 2016-2017 Mississippi Accountability Results

The following are the district, elementary & middle schools (700 point schools), and attendance centers & high schools (1,000 point schools) breakdowns from the media file released by the Mississippi Department of Education today after being approved by the Mississippi Board of Education.  I thought it might be beneficial to have them in an easy to view PDF, especially for viewing on tablets and other devices.

2016-2017 School District Accountability Results

2016-2017 Elementary & Middle School Accountability Results

2016-2017 Schools with a 12th grade (Attendance Center & High School) Accountability Results

 

Clint Stroupe

Mississippi Legislature Education Committee Bills – Alive & Dead – 1/31/2017

As of January 31, 2017,

Mississippi House Education Committee Bills – Dead in Committee

Mississippi House Education Committee Bills – Still Alive

Mississippi Senate Education Committee Bills – Dead in Committee

Mississippi Senate Education Committee Bills – Still Alive

 

 

2016 Mississippi MAP 3-8 Math & Language Arts Rankings by District

I have listed the Mississippi Assessment Program (MAP) results for the state in Language Arts and Mathematics for grades 3rd – 8th by district and ranked them by percent scoring in the top two levels.  Using the percent in the top two levels seems to be the preferred method of determining the percent scoring a “Proficient-type” score, which is the goal score range.  I feel pretty confident in the data at this point, but please let me know if you spot any errors.

Simply click the link below to access the ranking report:

2015-2016 MAP Rankings by District

Thanks,

Clint Stroupe

*These rankings are for informational purposes only.  True growth information is not available due to the fact this was the first time the MAP assessments were given.  Growth is far more valuable information on determining whether learning took place and to what degree rather than end-of-year scores only, which only tell us where students in a district “ended up” without knowledge of where they “began.”  The state has attempted to equate the 2014-2015 Mississippi PARCC assessment scores with the 2015-2016 MAP assessment scores in order to determine growth for accountability model purposes.  However, the accuracy of such a comparison with only one year’s worth of data on either assessment is questionable to say the least.

Conservatives Wearing the Name Republican vs Republicans Wearing the Name Conservative

As I was browsing the net the other night, I came across an article entitled “Mississippi Republican Party’s Law Firm Comes to the Rescue of LIBERAL DEMOCRAT!” (http://mississippiconservativedaily.com/2015/11/09/mississippi-republican-partys-law-firm-comes-to-the-rescue-of-liberal-democrat/).  I am definitely not endorsing or opposing the content of the article or the blog where it appeared, which I know little about.  However, I did think it was spot on in the way it contrasts “establishment” forces within the Republican Party with truly “conservative” elements (for the purposes of the article it is speaking more of economic conservatives).  I certainly do think it is worth a read.  The article offers a preview of what our state politics in the near future may resemble as Republicans have now become the dominant party in Mississippi state level government.

I consider myself a “social conservative,” which I contend most Mississippians are naturally inclined to be.  Second to that, I do lean conservative economically.  Yet, I have discussed in detail how the issues that concern me about the future of our nation are not financial ones as much as moral/social ones.  In regards to my personal economic conservative leanings, they are far more concerned with our national debt and operating within our means than anything else.  My political concern is whether money is being spent wisely and whether our government is going further into debt.  Simply slashing taxes right and left while digging a deeper debt hole is, I believe, absolutely the worst economic policy our government can pursue.  However, whether or not one agrees or disagrees with me about any point of my political beliefs, I still respect thinking, principled, individuals who are guided by their beliefs and act accordingly for the best interest of our country and state.  This is in contrast to those who blindly follow a political “group” or party line without really considering what the issues actually are.  It also is in contrast to those who wear the name of Republican which they try to pass of a synonym for “conservative” while having no real conservative principles (either economic or social).  These pretend “conservatives” are Republicans simply to have power for their own interests.  They are political animals without true principles other than expanding the power and financial interests of themselves and their allies.  For the blind followers and the “false conservatives” in government only for their self interests, I have no respect.

Thus, we find ourselves in 2015 Mississippi where the state Republican Party has successfully secured a supermajority in the House, a supermajority in the Senate, a Republican Lt. Governor, and a Republican Governor.  With these supermajorities and a hold on the executive branch, the Mississippi Republican Party can pass ANYTHING they want.  If you are conservative (either economically, socially, or a combination of both), just imagine whatever changes you have only dreamed of for Mississippi and would most like to see passed in our state.  Well, those conservative dreams can be a reality now.  All that has to happen is for the Republicans in charge to introduce them, push them, and have the Republicans in the legislature vote together to pass them.  There is no so-called Mississippi “liberal Democrat” wing to point at as blocking any such legislation.  The Mississippi Republican Party holds all the cards and can play the hand as they see fit.

However, what I think this change in our state government is very likely to expose and what I believe the article mentioned above demonstrates is that many in the state are Republicans, but the number of “conservatives” is far less.  Much like those who suddenly materialize with caps, shirts, and tags for whatever sports team is currently dominating, many of these politicians are Republicans simply because Republicans have been winning.  These “bandwagon Republicans” simply see it as beneficial for themselves at present to wear the “Republican” name.  For many of these “bandwagon Republicans” their self-interests and the interests of their supporters are the only principle which guides them into the Republican Party.  This type of political self-interested motivation is what had these politicians wearing the Democrat name in years past and beliefs, ideology, or principles are the absolute last thing the bandwagon jumpers ever think about before making a political move.

Besides the “bandwagon Republicans,” you also have the “establishment Republicans” who I define as Republicans who are simply out to benefit specific business or industry interests.  The “establishment Republican” has been able for several years to convince people they are some form of “conservative,” although they are not.  They have no real social conservative convictions and economically they favor a larger spending role for government to favor their supporters.  By putting on an economic or social conservative mask, these establishment Republican politicians have been able for several years to direct principled economic or social conservative voters into supporting their candidates and voting their way by painting every vote as a conservative stance (which happens to be whatever candidate or bill they support) vs a liberal stance (which happens to be whatever candidate or bill they oppose).  However, if you could see into their mind, they are actually just painting “conservative” on anything which benefits them or those with contribution money who have given to their campaigns.  The “establishment Republicans” appear conservative by advocating tax cuts or wanting to cut spending on government programs which benefit individuals.  However, the tax cuts they push are mainly geared toward corporations, and the government benefits they cut from individuals are simply replaced with new spending programs offering government financial benefits to businesses.  The establishment Republican is against “welfare” only when individual people are the recipients, but it is a different matter entirely when corporations (their donors) are the recipients of “corporate welfare” financial payouts.  An odd benefit to these Republican supermajorities in both Mississippi legislative houses is that many of these “establishment Republicans” may now have a hard time keeping their “real faces” completely obscured behind their masks.

Take the situation in the article, the author is attempting to create a narrative that describes this “establishment Republican” branch which he is casting as “false conservatives” taking the side of a “liberal Democrat.” The author presents the motivation of these “establishment Republicans” being the quid pro quo of the Democratic candidate swapping parties after the election win that their lawyers will help to secure.  Also, by supporting the Democrat candidate, the “establishment Republicans” and their lawyers get the added benefit of keeping a more ideologically principled Republican out of office.  You see the establishment has power and wants more power for its own benefit.  Should a Democrat (even a so-called “liberal Democrat”) agree to swap parties and presumably then vote with the party establishment to repay the favor, the outcome would be much more desirable than even gaining a lifelong Republican candidate whose principles might cause him to go his own way, rather than following the herd as directed by the party establishment.  Yes, in the post-2015 Mississippi political world, we are sure to see such odd occurrences as principled conservative candidates are seen as enemies of the “establishment” who only wants people who will vote with, listen to, and follow the party establishment’s marching orders.  Less desirable to this establishment is anyone with true conservative beliefs and the willingness to follow those beliefs even if they are in conflict with the establishment.  “Establishment Republicans” are Republicans first and conservatives a (perhaps very distant) second.  “Principled Republicans” are conservatives first (either economic, social, or a combination) and Republicans second.

For example, the “establishment Republican” leadership might decide they want a bill pushed through to help a major business donor by giving a tax break to their particular industry or giving some form of direct subsidy (corporate welfare) which the company would qualify to get.  In supporting such a bill, the “establishment” wing is very much going against “economic conservative” principles of limited government involvement in the economy, tight government spending, and preserving an equal playing field for all businesses to compete in the free market without favoritism from the state.  This type of situation is where the conservative “mask comes off” of the establishment exposing them as simply another political faction seeking to grant special benefits to its particular constituency.  The principled conservative (economic or social) is here a huge liability to the establishment as they look to their principles to decide how to vote instead of just to the establishment leadership’s direction.  As stated before, while Democrats were still a force to be reckoned with in the legislature, the establishment Republicans could use them to rally all troops to support any particular bill by pointing to the fact that Democrats=liberals are against this bill and Republicans=conservatives are supporting it, so the bill itself must be conservative and there was no need to scrutinize it too closely.  Thus, Democrats served as the boogey man in these cases to unify all Republicans behind particular actions, bills, or causes by giving the impression the cause itself was conservative, even if it was not.  In the present political climate, lacking this Democratic boogey man, the Republican establishment had much rather have an ex-Democrat who owes the establishment his political life and is willing to vote with the establishment on most anything rather than the principled conservative Republicans who are not nearly as dependable for such unquestioned support and voting.

As bad as such a situation might seem, I actually look forward to this type of fracturing.  I see it as some good which might come out of this election with its monolithic Republican hold upon state government.  You see I favor debate of the issues and on the surface a total Republican monopoly on state power would seem to stifle such debate as Republicans act in lock-step on every political action and vote which arises.  Yet by achieving such total dominance, I believe it is inevitable that such debate may become more prominent within the Republican Party itself.  As a person who supports ideas and individuals over simply following a party line, this would be the best possible situation.  I could care less whether Democrats hold 100% of the elected positions in the state.  I could also care less if Republicans hold 100% of those elected positions.  As long as there is freedom of thought and debate of ideas, I could care little about which party is in power.  In my opinion, competition and the free market are necessary to weed out the bad ideas and hopefully bolster the better ones.  I am optimistic that by gaining this blanket absolute political dominance in the state, the Republican Party itself will now be forced to allow such debate and competition within its own ranks and the false conservative establishment will be forced to reveal its true nature.

-Clint Stroupe

Stop the Bad Check Writing

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!

-Clint Stroupe

A Heartfelt Request

I am a teacher.  Even though in my present position I very seldom have direct contact with students other than a passing word in the hallway, I believe I will always be a teacher.  It is also my belief that God made me in such a way that the only way I can be truly happy is to believe on some level that I am impacting the learning of our young people no matter my present job title or position.  In spite of this, it is not my belief that I was a great teacher and to suggest such would be an insult to all of the truly great ones whom I have had the privilege of working with over the years and the many truly gifted ones who taught me as I grew up.  However, I like to believe that my students and those around me could always sense the care I had for them and the passion their learning meant to me.  This is to me the “calling” that those who should be in public education almost universally refer to when speaking about why they went into teaching, the feeling that educating students is what they were meant to do.

Teaching is not special in this regard.  I hope that should I ever need serious medical attention the nurses and doctors who care for me are the type who can think of literally no other career, other than healing, which they could ever truly be satisfied doing.  The mechanic who works on my car, I hope is one who is utterly fascinated by the inner workings of machines and truly enjoys his career above all others.  Truly, you can always tell these types of people who are in the “right” career as it is not really a job where they simply make money; it is woven into the very fabric of who they are as a person.  Whether talking about automobiles, medical problems, spiritual struggles, or any subject of real significance to me and those I care about, the opinion of the people I know who are “called” into their profession is the opinion I seek out and respect.

As many of you know who “follow” me online, I am very supportive of the upcoming Initiative 42 measure.  To say that I have tried to put out information about the issue might be very much an understatement.  In fact, many will no doubt look forward to the election on Tuesday for the simple reason they will no longer hear about it any longer.  However, I am “unique” (perhaps again very much an understatement) in that I felt the issue was important enough to speak out openly and vocally in my support.  But, there are many others in the education field who do not have my same personality traits and for whatever reason might not be comfortable sharing their thoughts in the same fashion I have.  Many of these same people who you have not necessarily heard from are far better educators and teachers than I could ever hope to be and simply because they have not spoken out on a political topic does not mean that they do not have an opinion.

Keeping this in mind, as the work week comes to a close and the weekend approaches; I know that the vast majority of people in Mississippi who plan to vote on Tuesday will pause to make their decisions about what votes they will be casting.  The majority of these people have without a doubt been too busy in their own professions and lives to necessarily read up on this education initiative themselves.  If you find yourself in this category and you are unsure of how exactly you feel about fully funding public school education in Mississippi and Initiative 42, I would ask that you seek out the counsel of the educator or teacher who you personally know to be caring, effective, and passionate about their life’s work.  Let them know that you are asking in an open, non-argumentative way so that you truly get their perspective on it, just as you might ask the best mechanic you know his opinion before buying a car or as you might ask the nurse you respect most which doctor to choose for your medical condition.

It is my belief that if you ask such an educator, whom you believe truly has the heart of a teacher, with a spirit of openness; they will help you to reach the decision that is best for the children of our communities whom have devoted their lives to caring for and educating.  For the spiritual questions which affect me and my family, I would go to the minister I felt to be the most God-fearing man I knew.  I simply ask that you do the same on this educational issue as well.  The information is out there about the vote, and I hope that many of you will read up on it.  But still, please do not skip the step of asking the teacher in your life whose opinion you respect the most.

Thank you and I hope you and your family have a wonderful weekend.

-Clint Stroupe

“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” – Proverbs 15:22 (ESV)

The Love of Money

“One of the reasons people hate politics is that truth is rarely a politician’s objective. Election and power are.”      – Cal Thomas

As one of our Mississippi House members recently pointed out when explaining the necessity of adding the legislative “alternative” 42A to the ballot, the problem was that it was too simple a choice with Initiative 42 being on there alone and this simple choice had to be remedied. Yes, had the ballot been setup as every other initiative had been in the entire history of the Mississippi constitutional initiative process, the choice would have been clear to either vote “Yes” for Initiative 42 and full funding of Mississippi education or to vote “No” to leave things exactly as they currently are. Of course, how things currently are has brought us a law on the books which mandates an “adequate” level of funding and a legislature that except in times of elections does not fund our schools at this adequate level. Virtually no one, not even those who introduced “alternative” 42A, advocates voting for it. 42A was the first of many steps taken to make sure the will of the people had sufficient impediments in place to prevent Initiative 42 from becoming law.

Yes, it should be apparent to everyone in the state that 42A which passed with the support of our legislative leadership, including chief opponents of our public school system Rep. Snowden, Speaker of the House Gunn, and Lt. Gov. Reeves, has no support on election day from these same individuals as far as actually passing. It is purely a decoy. Even the “concerned citizens/attorneys for major insurance companies/heads of political committees funded by out of state billionaires” who came out to supposedly speak on behalf of 42A basically used the opportunity to speak against Initiative 42, instead of in support of 42A. Yes, the same leadership who convinced us years ago that the problem with corruption in our state had simply to do with the other party whom they replaced, began to single-handedly demonstrate that power can corrupt without a (D) or (R) after a name serving as a shield.

My friends do not be mistaken on this, the opposition to Initiative 42 has to do with ONE singular thing and ONE singular thing only and that thing is MONEY! Money is what the entire thing is all about. Our state leadership have bought into a philosophy that public schools, instead of being a resource treasured by the members of the community, are simply leeches sucking money from the state budget which could be destined for other, more important things. They offer tax cuts which far exceed the amount of money needed to fully fund education, they offer tax breaks to “select” individuals which would almost pay the whole amount for fully funding education, and they have taken every opportunity to make sure education spending was shorted for several years before Initiative 42 ever came along.

I could respect these individuals if they had the honesty and integrity to be upfront with their motivations and reasoning behind opposing the full-funding of education. If they simply said, “We oppose public education as a failed system and want the money proposed to be used for public education for other purposes.” Yet, instead of telling us the truth on why they oppose it, they have attempted to cloak this motivation behind an every-changing list of reasons to oppose this full-funding initiative. Think back my friends, how many of these reasons have you heard as the process has developed? Initiative 42 is going to cause people to be fired from other state agencies. Initiative 42 is going to cause taxes to go up. Initiative 42 is a power play by out of state liberals to take over our schools for their liberal teachings. Initiative 42 is going to bring back Common Core. Initiative 42 is going to cause consolidation. Initiative 42 is a ploy to give administrators raises. Initiative 42 is designed for trial lawyers to make millions. Initiative 42 will cause cuts to Medicaid. Initiative 42 is going to allow illegal immigrants to enroll in our schools (which they already can, by the way). Initiative 42 is supported by pro-abortion, “dark money,” Godless out of state organizations to infiltrate our schools. Initiative 42 would allow a “Hinds County judge” to rule our schools with a stroke of his pen and potentially get rid of football. Initiative 42 would allow a “black” judge to move money from a mostly “white” district to some other district in the Delta. Why? Why, would the reasons change literally by the day almost as quickly as the information could be put out to refute them? If the reasons were based on sound logic, why would they need to constantly change? Believe me when I tell you these are all a smokescreen to cover the real reason for the opposition and that is greed! Greed for the money to continue to be spent on other things than education.

As I write, I often refer to you as “my friends” and this is because I truly mean it. The people of Mississippi are by and large good, hard-working people of faith. But, these good people are being misled by dishonest people in power who simply want money. These politicians are feeding the average Mississippian false information to divert them from voting for an initiative with the goal of simply bringing more funds into our schools which are so in need of them for repairs, smaller classes, new textbooks, and many other true needs. These state leaders, who are the same ones who will not release their emails with out of state lobbyists to oppose Initiative 42, will not mention anything about the BILLIONS in tax cuts they proposed this same year which supposedly would not cause any cuts to the budget. These same anti-public school politicians who look upon the money going to educate our children like a dog looks at a steak, will not mention the hundreds of millions which they have diverted to “select” retail store developments owned by apparently other “select” individuals. No, you will not hear them mention those things any more than they will mention “alternative” 42A anymore.

42A has served its purpose, it has been used to create a confusing ballot where people supporting our schools will have to vote twice to simply be counted once for what they support. Some of the various reasons have served their purpose by planting fear in the minds of families who have a member working for another state department. Other reasons have served their purpose by scaring the very people who fill up the church on Sunday morning. In spite of these efforts and dirty, filthy politics used to oppose something to benefit our children, people all over this state will type articles, visit houses, put up signs, type Facebook statuses, and send out their tweets to help support this good effort and to attempt to counter the false information being put out by our state political machine to defeat this initiative. They will continue to work, as they have since signatures were first signed to place the initiagive on the ballot, to stop these millions from being diverted by politicians from their rightful destination in the classroom benefiting all of our children. Yes, we will do these things without seeing one red cent. We will do these things based upon our caring for the children of this state and their future alone.

I simply ask you one thing, if you still do not believe this is all about simply money, when was the last time you saw all of our top politicians hitting the roads in the final days before an election and buying ads right and left to oppose something which did not involve money? Where were these massive political efforts during the personhood amendment on the ballot a few years ago? Whether you were for or against that amendment, was it not much more significant morally than this? Where were these efforts when the marriage amendment was on the ballot a few years before that? Did you see the kind of effort and political maneuvering to make sure these amendments which dealt with true moral issues went one way or the other? No, you did not and you never will again unless millions of dollars, which could go out in tax cuts and as bestowed gifts to pet individuals and corporations, are ever again at stake. It is my hope and my sincere prayer that you will look with discernment at these individuals’ and the actions taken to impede this initiative. Examine with an open mind, what is really happening and what is at stake when we vote on Initiative 42 next week.

-Clint Stroupe

Initiative 42: A Wise Wager

“Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists.”
― Blaise Pascal, Pensées

Maybe I am a simpleton in many ways, but then again oftentimes I believe the simple solution is the best.  Keeping that in mind, today I came across something which I had often heard quoted or paraphrased in the past known as “Pascal’s Wager.”  Basically, Pascal presents a situation where an individual is trying to decide whether there is a higher power or not.  As a means to make this decision, Pascal decides to examine the consequences of either position and to follow them to their conclusion to determine if one is preferable versus the other.  If divinity exists, the person with faith will have eternal life.  If divinity is nonexistent, the person with faith will simply cease to exist (the same as the person without faith).  Thus, if one were simply going to wager with a decision about whether God exists, then the consequences of faith are at least equal to and at most infinitely better than not having faith.  It is an interesting argument to say the least.  Based upon conflicting actions with conflicting positions one is to examine the consequences to determine which action might be best.  Naturally, my mind eventually wondered to our current political situation and the uncertainty many individuals may feel as they decide which way to vote on the upcoming Initiative 42 school funding proposal.  Based upon our current conflicting advertising and opinions about the proposed Initiative 42, what might be a way to apply this type of logic to decide which way to cast one’s ballot?

In this effort, let us see if we can summarize the consequences many of the opposition point out to Initiative 42’s passage.  Most of the consequences center around a loss of total control of the education budget by the Mississippi legislature with a review of adequate funding potentially being given to the judicial branch should the legislature not adequately fund education in accordance with the Mississippi Adequate Education Program law.  This failure to follow their own funding formula would result in a potential lawsuit where the state’s courts could examine the situation and potentially make the legislature follow their own formula.  Now, I do not believe the most outlandish consequences of such a court case, but we still should list them here.  I have heard it suggested that the “one judge” could potentially bring back Common Core, consolidate schools, consolidate school districts, disband local school boards, get rid of football or other sports, or possibly give money from certain districts to “delta” districts.   Again, I do not believe this to be the case, but the argument is that the “one judge in Hinds Country” could make all decisions on education and take this power away from our representatives, the legislature.  All of which is by virtue of Initiative 42 being a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” attempting to take over our state schools and put the power to run them in the hands of the “one judge in Hinds County.”  Additionally, according to those opposing it, the money will have to be appropriated to public schools all at once which will result in mass layoffs of workers in the prisons, highway department, colleges, etc. and/or higher taxes.

Now, let us examine the consequences of Initiative 42’s passage according to those supporting it.  They propose that Initiative 42 will require the legislature to fully fund public schools based upon the formula passed by the legislature in the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP).  This money will be used to repair/replace old buses, repair school buildings, hire teachers, lower class sizes, provide new textbooks, and increase technology available to students.  The money will not be spent on administrator salaries since administrative pay, according to state law, does not come from MAEP state funds and is set by local school boards.  According to proponents, these things will increase opportunities for all Mississippi students to have a successful learning experience in school, help them to reach their full academic potential, and open their eyes to greater opportunities as productive adults.  The legislature has proven in the roughly eighteen years since passage of the MAEP funding law that they have no intention of actually following the law without some ability to enforce it.  By allowing a case to be brought in courts should the legislature continue to either not follow the MAEP law or change the MAEP law to some other formula, this can insure the law is followed.  Initiative 42 gives the legislature some accountability via this system of checks and balances.  Such court cases would start out in Chancery Court, but could be appealed to higher courts and ultimately to the Mississippi Supreme Court (which are all elected not appointed) to insure no single judge can go out into left field with some outlandish, radical judicial activism without being overturned by the higher court.  There are no need for job cuts to other state agencies since the proposal itself has a “phase in” plan to simply fund it from a percentage of future growth (no growth for a year means no education funding increases that year).

In “Pascal’s Wager” the list would end here, we would examine the potential consequences of Initiative 42’s passage and see which one was the most risky.  In truth, it might seem from the list that those opposing Initiative 42’s passage might have the upper hand in this regard with the list of ominous and downright frightening predictions based upon its passage.  However, in that situation Pascal was talking about death coming before either outcome could be realized.  With the finality of death, there is no opportunity to go back and to relive one’s life by going down the alternative path, instead the consequences of the chosen path are fixed.  Would it not be a significantly different argument if at the end of life one had the opportunity to go back and change things?  What then might be the effect, if I told you that at any time after the passage of Initiative 42 it could be changed to alter any potential problems, even if they are unforeseen?  What might be the effect on our decision, if we knew that we could completely undo Initiative 42’s changes if it did not deliver the promised benefits?  Would that not be incredibly significant in regards to our decision on whether to vote for it or not?

Fortunately for us, all Initiative 42 does is change our state constitution, and while this is significant enough to make the legislature actually fund education, it is something that can simply be undone should those who support Initiative 42 be wrong and things turned out badly.  Remember the prohibition of alcohol passed by the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution?  It was passed in 1920 and significant amounts of people decided afterward that they did not like it and wanted to return to legalized alcohol.  What happened?  As we all know, in 1933 the 21st Amendment was passed repealing the 18th Amendment.  Voila!  No more 18th amendment and alcohol once more flowed freely.  The Mississippi Constitution gives us the exact same recourse should any amendment passed to it ever become a problem.

In fact, the change to Initiative 42 should be something that is familiar to all who are currently in legislative offices and oppose it because it begins with them, the house and the senate.  You see Initiative 42 went one route to amend the state constitution where the people themselves (over 200,000 of them) signed a petition to place the proposed amendment on the ballot.  However, the preferable way to repeal it, should there really be the scary consequences mentioned by its opponents, would be to simply have a 2/3 vote in the Mississippi House of Representatives and a 2/3 vote in the Mississippi Senate to add the new amendment repealing the old one passed by Initiative 42.  On the very next ballot, the people would vote again and if over 50% favored the new amendment doing away with the Initiative 42 amendment, then Initiative 42 is gone and the legislature can go back to the old way of funding education and simply do away with any changes done by the supposed “one judge in Hinds County” in the meantime by passing regular bills into laws.  It really is rather simple and all of the power rests in the legislative branch simply voting with 2/3 majority and the people passing it with a simple majority vote.  Either option should be easy if Initiative 42’s amendment does all of the scary things they are cautioning about.  After all, is not the entire point of the scariness that the people and legislature will be outraged with “one judge in Hinds County” ruling against popular will?

So now let us examine the present situation.  We currently leave public education funding in the hands of the legislature.  The legislature has passed a law promising to fully fund education using their own formula, but every year almost without fail finds other things to spend the money on.  Education in Mississippi is currently at or almost at the very bottom relative to the rest of the country in every measure.  So we see that not fully funding education coincides with results in education which are quite less than we would desire as a state.   Now since the legislature chooses to not even follow their own law, how might we as a state be able to just experiment by actually fully funding education for even a few years?  I mean just a few years to see if fully funding it makes a difference?  Well, we can pass Initiative 42.  We pass it and we just see what happens.  If things go bad, we just repeal it.  If things go well, then we all reap the benefits.  How else will we ever know if fully funding education will give us positive results unless we try it?

Using this logic, Initiative 42 has the potential to improve education by taking a totally unheard of tactic in relation to Mississippi schools, actually funding them fully.  State legislative leaders such as our Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House who oppose Initiative 42 are more aware than anyone that it could be repealed if their doomsday scenarios play out after its passage and it turns out to be some liberal “Trojan horse.”  So what exactly is the downside?  Knowing it can be repealed quickly if the awful things begin to happen they are saying, why then would they not give it a shot?  Could it be that they actually know Initiative 42’s changes will not have the frightening consequences they have been talking so very much about?  Could it be that they know getting everyone upset and afraid without cause is the only hope they have to defeat this change to the state constitution because after it passes and we see positive results, they have no hope of ever repealing it?   Could it be that all of the scary talk is just that “scary talk” without a real wizard behind the curtain with the real motivation being the continued pile of tax money that those in power can dish out however they choose?  My friends, I feel pretty good about taking what I will refer to as the “Initiative 42 Wager” as it has an extreme upside for the children of our state for generations to come and literally no downside which cannot be reversed via a simple vote of the legislature and the people to change it.  Are our children’s futures not worth simply seeing what would happen?  After all, we all know what will continue to happen if we leave things as they are.

-Clint Stroupe