Initiative 42

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Initiative 42

Post by Admin on Sun Aug 09, 2015 1:20 pm

http://www.clarionledger.com/story/opinion/columnists/2015/08/08/latino-initiative-means-less-freedom-parents/31353121/INSTALLClose

Latino: Initiative 42 means less freedom for parents
Russ Latino
My wife and I are products of public education. When our children come of age, they will be, as well. As a family, we believe that public education serves a vital function and that better schools truly will aid in the creation of better jobs. However, the ballot initiative being pushed by a group called “Better Schools, Better Jobs” simply does not live up to the name, and Mississippians should vote no on 42.
Initiative 42 would amend Section 201 of the Mississippi Constitution. Fueled by nearly $2.5 million in donations from out-of-state special interests, proponents of 42 have sold the proposed amendment as a vehicle to increase school funding.
In reality, the amendment does nothing, on its face, to increase school funding. Instead, its passage would result in an unprecedented transfer of school control from parents, educators and those we elect to represent us to a single judge with virtually limitless power.
I am not asking that you take my word for it. Look closely and consider how the proposed amendment would actually change the Mississippi Constitution.
Current language:
The Legislature shall, by general law, provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of free public schools upon such conditions and limitations as the Legislature may prescribe.
Proposed language:
Educational opportunity for public school children: To protect each child’s fundamental right to educational opportunity, the State shall provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools. The chancery courts of this State shall have the power to enforce this section with appropriate injunctive relief.
Do you see any reference to funding or the Mississippi Adequate Education Program? No. It’s not there. When proponents of 42 talk about funding, MAEP or “phase-ins” tied to revenue growth, those talking points come from the original proposal filed with the secretary of state. This is key, because once 42 passes, only the amendment language becomes a part of the constitution. A judge is not bound by what the proponents say the amendment should do.
The folks pushing 42 know this. They could have easily made sure the amendment, itself, contained funding language. But this was never simply about funding; 42 is a power grab — an effort to circumvent local leadership in our communities and schools.
Section 201 already provides for free public education and currently gives the Legislature the authority, by general law, to set up our school system. The reference to the Legislature’s power by general law is important. It is under this authority that our entire school system operates, from the Mississippi Department of Education down to your local elementary school.
Initiative 42 would transfer this authority to a chancery court judge. This court’s authority would not be limited to questions of funding. Because suits against the state must be filed in Jackson, 42 effectively gives control of our education system over to a single Jackson judge whose sole limitation is determining what is “adequate and efficient.”
The potential unintended consequences are infinite. This judge could determine that “Common Core” is the only “adequate and efficient” curriculum, that laws and policies set by the Legislature or your local school board are no longer “adequate and efficient,” that successful school districts should be forced to support or consolidate with unsuccessful school districts or that funding should increase at a level which would require widespread cuts or unsustainable tax increases.
Proponents of 42 argue that any decision of the chancery court judge would be reviewable by Mississippi’s appellate courts. The amendment, itself, makes no mention of the power given to the chancery court being subject to judicial review. Even if reviewable, it is extremely difficult to overturn a chancellor in our judicial system. Moreover, it really isn’t much better to turn our state’s education policy over to nine men and women in black robes. It’s simply not the function of the judiciary.
Initiative 42 will be a boon for lawyers eager to collect fees in suits against the state and our kids’ school districts. We have already caught a glimpse of the plan with former Democrat Gov. Ronnie Musgrove’s $240 million suit against Mississippi. Our children will be held hostage as challenged education policies work their way through the judicial system.
Education is an emotional issue. We all want the next generation to be better off than the last. It is imperative, as Mississippians, that we fight for education policy that puts our kids first and that we not succumb to outside efforts to take over our schools. Please read the amendment for yourself, think about the consequences and vote no on 42.
Russ Latino is an AV-rated attorney licensed to practice in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama and the director of KidsFirst Mississippi. He can be reached at russ.latino@gmail.com.

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