Meridian Star

Local News

June 18, 2014

Former gov. seeks more education funding

Considers suing the state

MERIDIAN —     A lawsuit challenging the state of Mississippi's educational funding may be forthcoming.

    Former Governor Ronnie Musgrove (D) attended the Meridian Public School District Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night to discuss the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP).

    At the meeting Musgrove, who is an attorney for the South Panola school board, discussed how he and some other school districts across the state plan to file suit against the the state for underfunding.

    Musgrove said he has been making stops to different schools across the state to give them the opportunity to join the lawsuit which he plans to file before the end of July.

    Musgrove argues the Mississippi Code 37-151-6, which states "Effective with fiscal year 2007, the legislature shall fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program." Musgrove argues the word "shall" has been repeatedly held up as mandatory and he believes this requires the state legislature to fully fund each school based on the MAEP formula.

    "Meridian, since 2010, has been underfunded $17.3 million," said Musgrove. "School districts across the state have told me that they are getting into more serious constraints with the lack of funding. Every year they do not fully fund the MAEP, there are raises in local taxes, because then you have to ask for an increase to try to offset between what they should have provided and what they did provide."

    Musgrove said in this type case, Mississippi law does not provide for a class-action lawsuit.  Only the districts that file will receive relief, he said.

    Musgrove told trustees if the case did not succeed and his legal theory was wrong, there will be no cost to the school district.

    "The ramifications are minute," said Musgrove. "What are they going to do — underfund more?"

    The superintendent and board members never stated whether or not they would support the lawsuit.

    "I believe that all school districts should be fully funded by MAEP as stated in the law," said Dr. Alvin Taylor, Meridian Public School District Superintendent.

    Musgrove served as the lieutenant governor of Mississippi from 1996 to 2000 and was elected in 2000 to serve as Mississippi's 62nd Governor. He served one term as governor before being defeated by Republican Haley Barbour.   

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