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City Leaders Push for More Education Funding

By Evelina Burnett | Published 25 Jun 2014 09:56am | comments

City leaders in Mississippi have joined the push to increase funding for education. As MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, the Mississippi legislature hasn’t fully funded the state’s adequate education program since 2008.

Chip Johnson is mayor of Hernando. He says education is an economic development issue for cities like his.

Johnson spoke at a panel discussion on public education yesterday at the Mississippi Municipal League conference in Biloxi. State senator Derrick Simmons of Greenville was also on the panel, and during his speech he urged support for a ballot initiative for a constitutional mandate to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.

House appropriations chair Herb Frierson says the legislature has increased funding for K-12 education by $180 million over the past three years. A large portion of that was in the recent teacher pay raise.

The Mississippi Association of Educators says that from 2009 to 2015, the state underfunded schools by $1.5 billion, an amount it says could have paid for 5,5423 more teachers. That's why the group is in favor of a ballot initiative for a constitutional amendment to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. 

Joyce Helmick is president of the educators association, which was reaching out to local leaders at this week's Mississippi Municipal League conference in Biloxi.

"Right now we're in the process of getting signatures so that we can put the ballot initiative up for a vote, giving the citizens of Mississippi the right to vote whether they want the constitutional amendment that would require our legislators to fully fund our schools."

Helmick says more than 50,000 signatures have been collected so far; 107,000 registered voters must sign the petition by Oct. 1 for it to appear on the ballot in 2015.

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