JACKSON, Miss. – Nearly two dozen Mississippi School districts are waiting to learn if the state will be forced to pay out millions of dollars which were not sent to their Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) accounts.
In a suit, filed in Hinds County Chancery Court, the districts are asking for more than $200 million and a directive that state lawmakers never shortchange MAEP again. The latest in the controversial case was a nearly two hour long hearing that ended late Wednesday with Judge William Singletary saying no decision would come overnight. “I will take some time to digest this and will get back with you as soon as I can,” he told attorneys.
The districts legal team is led by attorney and former Governor Ronnie Musgrove, who helped give life to MAEP while serving as Lt. Governor. “The statue is clear and said ‘shall.’ The state had a mandatory obligation to fully fund MAEP. Unfortunately they did not do that,” Musgrove told reporters after the hearing. “I think the judge believes the students of Mississippi are entitled to a better funded school system than what the Legislature has given them over the last six years.”
Attorneys for the state spent much of their time before Judge Singletary arguing for an established law that says one legislature cannot bind future legislatures to fund MAEP. In addition, the state claimed that the school district’s daily student attendance rate, which is a key element in MAEP’s formula, has been found by the state’s auditors to be inaccurate.