Mississippi legislators are not obligated to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) , a 1997 formula that determines funding levels for all school districts. Hinds County Chancery Judge William Singletary ruled last week. Former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove brought the suit last year on behalf of 21 school districts; they sought more than $240 million they claimed they were shortchanged over the past six state budget years.
Although the judge said that he believes “MAEP should be annually funded to the fullest extent possible,” he nevertheless held that the court was unable to interpret the relevant statutes as imposing a mandatory annual duty on the legislature to appropriate 100 percent of the funds estimated under MAEP because the statute includes provisions for alternative ways the state should handle education funding during years when money falls short.
Musgrove announced that he will appeal the decision to the state supreme Court. Meanwhile, an initiative on the state ballot for this November would amend the state constitution to establish adequate education funding as a clear constitutional mandate.