Debating Initiative 42

Jim Keith (left) and Rep. Greg Snowden (right)

Jim Keith (left) and Rep. Greg Snowden (right) Photo by Imani Khayyam.

Rep. Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, and Jim Keith, a Republican lawyer and Initiative 42 proponent, debated Initiative 42 and the legislative alternative 42A on Oct. 19 at the Capital Club. Here are some of their key arguments and sound bites from the debate:

Rep. Greg Snowden:

  • "There is no mention whatsoever of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program in Initiative 42 (in the words going into the state constitution), there is not even a mention of funding at all ... there's no growth trigger at all."
  • "Forty-four states in this union have the word "Legislature," "general assembly" "or "general legislative assembly" (in Section 201); that's where the authority to (fund education) resides. Only six states use broader words such as "state."
  • "If Section 201 of the (state) constitution has been changed to give that authority ultimately to the judiciary system, that's not appropriate. It's completely contrary to our system of representative democracy, it clearly blurs the distinction of the separation of powers doctrine when they give the power to the "State" and not the "Legislature.""
  • "(If Initiative 42 passes), we're going to go back to Jackson in January, and we're going to have lawsuits pending when we get there."
  • "(If Initiative 42 passes), the only prudent course of action open to us at that time is to immediately fund the formula, which requires taking about $201 million out of the rest of the state budget which equals about 7.8% reduction in every budget but Medicaid. You're being told there won't be a lawsuit if the formula is funded, so basic prudence suggests that the very first thing to do is fund the formula."
  • "This is clearly and thoroughly a partisan issue. The truth is the Mississippi Republican Party has unanimously endorsed opposition to Initiative 42. The elected leaders of this state, the legislators that are Republicans, have come out against it because we understand the dangers. It is a partisan issue—we didn't pick this fight."

Jim Keith:

  • "The real issue in this is that some members of the Legislature do not want oversight with respect to decisions that it makes regarding public education. ... That position is inconsistent with our three branches of government that our forefathers wrote."
  • "Adding "State" emphasizes that every branch of government—all three branches—(and) cities, counties, school districts all have a duty to provide an adequate and efficient system of public education. It does not remove any legislative authority from the Legislature."
  • "Initiative 42 calls for the use of appropriate injunctive relief because that is the way future funding would be ordered if necessary: injunctive relief—make someone do what they are legally required to do."
  • "Initiative 42 does not mandate (immediate funding). When a court interprets the constitution, they use the text, the constitutional language, the intent of the authors and the interpretation of the courts. Equitable relief does allow phasing-in just as the petition suggested. That suggestion was because the statute required a recommended method for funding 42."
  • "The phase-in is not mentioned in the constitutional amendment because it would be a bit ludicrous to put phase-in in a constitutional provision you hope will be there in a hundred years, but likewise, there's no requirement that full funding be given in any given year for Initiative 42."
  • "If you look at the MAEP formula, all school districts will see an increase in funding if the MAEP is fully funded. Initiative 42 simply establishes a minimal level of state funding and quality for all districts to meet."


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