In Mississippi, a former governor who supported passage of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program during his tenure has filed a lawsuit that could impact implementation of the funding measure. An excerpt follows:
Group files lawsuit for MAEP funding
Fourteen Mississippi school districts filed a lawsuit in Hinds County Chancery Court on Thursday demanding full funding of the state’s schools.
The suit was filed by the MAEP Legal Group, which includes former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove. It seeks for those 14 districts – including Okolona, Prentiss County and Clay County in Northeast Mississippi – to be repaid a total of about $115 million that they have been underfunded since Fiscal Year 2010 under the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.
That is the formula the state uses to determine how much money each school district should receive for operating costs. Under it, property-poor school districts receive a greater percentage of state funds for such basics as teacher and staff salaries and maintenance. It has been fully funded only twice and has been underfunded by about $1.5 billion since Fiscal Year 2010, including $255 million for the current school year.
The lawsuit seeks not only to recover back funds for participating districts, but also to obtain a court injunction forcing the Legislature to fully fund the formula in the future . . . .
“School districts cannot live without this funding, and local districts are being forced to raise local taxes to try to make up for the money that is being held hostage in Jackson,” Musgrove said in a press release. “We hope to get as much money back as possible for every school district. We hope to make education a top priority in Mississippi again. We hope to create opportunity for everyone in Mississippi. The only way to do that is to legally force the state to fully fund education.”
As lieutenant governor in 1997, Musgrove played a key role in steering MAEP’s passage. He served as governor from 2000 to 2004 . . . .
The lawsuit is different than the “Better Schools Better Jobs” group that aims to put a constitutional amendment on the November 2015 ballot that it says would ensure full funding of schools.
That initiative would require a percentage of state revenue growth to be dedicated to MAEP until it was fully funded.
The Better Schools, Better Jobs group has been critical of Musgrove’s potential lawsuit, saying it could negatively impact its initiative effort. Its members also have criticized the contingency fees the MAEP Legal Group’s attorneys would receive.
Those fees were determined by a sliding-scale cap for such fees that is set into state law, Musgrove said. A calculation by The Associated Press determined they could be as high as $27.8 million . . . .