- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 18, 2015

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) - Debate is continuing at meetings across the state over proposed school funding initiatives that voters will decide this November.

Supporters outnumbered opponents of Initiative 42 during a public hearing Monday in Tupelo, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1NhlvXd ).

The proposed constitutional amendment got on the ballot through citizens’ petitions. Supporters say it’s intended to force lawmakers to fully fund an education budget formula that has been ignored most years since it was put into law in 1997. The initiative says people could sue the state if school funding falls short.

The Republican-controlled Legislature put an alternative, Initiative 42-A, on the same ballot, saying it would not allow lawsuits.

Madison attorney Russ Latino, director of a group called Kids First Mississippi, said Initiative 42 would hurt representative government by taking the Legislature out of the budget process and putting judges in charge.

“The amendment itself says the Legislature is no longer a part of the process. I think the average Mississippian needs to know that,” Latino said. “We are giving the judge discretion that goes far beyond funding. There are endless possibilities that we are giving to this judge.”

Oxford attorney Merrill Nordstrom disagreed.

“Lawmakers will tell you that one judge in one county will decide how much money your school will get. That is simply not true. All they will do is make sure schools are funded as required by law,” Nordstrom said.

Nordstrom said schools have been deprived of adequate funding, textbooks, resources, safe buildings and buses. She urged citizens to examine arguments from those who oppose 42, particularly lawmakers.

The gathering Monday was one of several public hearings being held around the state to discuss 42 and 42-A before the Nov. 3 general election.

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Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, https://djournal.com

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