Initiative 42 – Constitutional Amendment

Initiative 42 was a citizen-sponsored amendment to the State Constitution, placed on the November 2015 ballot for statewide vote. The Mississippi Legislature added to the ballot its own legislative alternative, Measure 42A. Neither measure was approved by voters. See certified election results.


Initiative 42 would:

  • Bring the education section of Mississippi’s constitution in line with the education sections of every other state constitution in our country
  • Give Mississippi children the same constitutional right that is provided the children in every other state

 Descriptors used in other states’ constitutions to define the quality of education required:

  • Adequate – Florida, Georgia
  • Efficient – Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia
  • High quality – Florida, Virginia
  • Thorough – Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia
  • Designed to promote excellence – Louisiana

By contrast, in Mississippi, only free public schools are required.

Claims vs. Facts – Initiative 42                      Letters & Editorials – Initiative 42

Statement from Attorney Jim Keith         Statement from Law Professors

Answers to Opponents’ Allegations:   Judges, Legislative Authority, & More

Every state except Mississippi has a constitutional mandate regarding education funding, while Mississippi, since 1960, has made it conditional. What did our forefathers intend?

Mississippi’s 1890 Constitution, Section 201:

It shall be the duty of the legislature to encourage by all suitable means, the promotion of intellectual, scientific, moral and agricultural improvement, by establishing a uniform system of free public schools, by taxation, or otherwise, for all children between the ages of five and twenty-one years, and, as soon as practicable, to establish schools of higher grade.

Legislature amended in 1960:

The Legislature may, in its discretion, provide for the maintenance and establishment of free public schools for all children between the ages of six (6) and twenty-one (21) years.

Legislature amended again in 1987:

The Legislature shall, by general law, provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of free public schools, upon such conditions and limitations as the Legislature may prescribe.”

Amendment Language Proposed by Initiative 42

See sample ballot for Initiative 42.

Section 201: Educational opportunity for public school children

To protect each child’s fundamental right to educational opportunity, the State  shall provide for the establishment, maintenance, and support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools. The chancery courts of this State shall have the power to enforce this section with appropriate injunctive relief.

Amount and Source of Revenue Required to Implement the Initiative:

For the purposes of the initiative, a minimum standard  of contemporary adequate education is described by the funding formula of the current version of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program and an efficient education is one that  will, among other things, enable Mississippi’s public school graduates to compete favorably with their counterparts in surrounding states.

Funding the initiative will not require a reduction in, elimination of, or reallocation of funding from any currently funded programs. The initiative will be funded by maintaining current funding levels for public education through the 12th grade adjusted for inflation, and then devoting to public education not less than 25% of future increases in general fund and other tax collections in order to achieve the constitutionally required level of adequacy and efficiency in the public educational system by a target date of Fiscal Year 2022 and maintain it in the future. For example, the state’s general fund revenues are projected to increase over Fiscal Year 2014 levels by approximately 3% annually, which will produce an additional $150 million in Fiscal Year 2015. Twenty-five percent of that would be $37.5 million. A similar amount for seven years could reach the additional $265 million a year in current dollars which will be needed to provide Mississippi’s public school students with an education that is adequate and efficient by contemporary standards. This initiative is not intended to restrict or meaningfully reduce the overall percentage of general fund revenues devoted to public schools, which at present is approximately 40%. If enforcement is necessary, injunctive relief will be the preferred remedy.

(The proposed Section 201 amendment and the description of the amount and source of revenue required to implement Initiative 42 was published on the back of petitions signed by registered voters. See complete petition.)