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Musgrove suggests schools join lawsuit for funding

At Tuesday night’s Brookhaven School District board meeting, Ronnie Musgrove, attorney for South Panola school board and a former state governor, invited Brookhaven schools to join a lawsuit against the state of Mississippi over under funding of public education.

Musgrove said his argument is based on Mississippi code 37-151-6, which reads “Effective with fiscal year 2007, the legislature shall fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.” In Mississippi case law, the word “shall” has repeatedly been held up as mandatory, according to Musgrove. Musgrove argues that this requires the Mississippi legislature to fully fund each school based on the MAEP formula.

MAEP’s formula is based on the amount of money need by each school based on student population to maintain at least a level C in the Mississippi Department of Education’s accountability rankings. The idea was to counteract the disparity between districts’ tax income.

DAILY LEADER / JULIE PENDLEY / Ronnie Musgrove asked the Brookhaven School District board on Tuesday to join a lawsuit against the state of Mississippi to force the state legislature to fully fund public education based on the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.

DAILY LEADER / JULIE PENDLEY / Ronnie Musgrove asked the Brookhaven School District board on Tuesday to join a lawsuit against the state of Mississippi to force the state legislature to fully fund public education based on the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.

Code 37-151-6 allowed a three-year period to increase to full funding, so by 2010 the legislature should have reached full funding for each school. Musgrove said from fiscal year 2010 to 2015, MAEP has been under funded by $1.5 billion dollars, and the Brookhaven School District has been under funded by $8.5 million dollars.

The lawsuit would call for an injunction and require the legislature to not only fully fund in the future but also to make up the under funding from the past.

“Without court action, history shows the legislature will continue to under fund MAEP,” Musgrove said.

As state and federal mandates will likely continue to increase, and funding continues to decrease, public school education will face a decline, Musgrove continued

“Private and charter schools will draw away potential students if our schools aren’t doing a good job, and sometimes it takes money to do a good job,” he said.

Musgrove said since Mississippi does not provide for a class-action lawsuit, only districts that file will receive relief if the judge agrees with his legal theory.

Musgrove pointed out other places where money went this year that could have gone toward MAEP funding. The state legislature chose to put $400 million in a rainy day fund and lower interest rates for overdue taxes that would cost the state $100 million per year.

Musgrove said his payment for the lawsuit would be based upon whether or not he wins the case. If the courts do not agree, the school districts will not owe him anything. If the courts do agree, his payment will be part of the $8.5 million owed since 2010 to the Brookhaven School District. The school board said they would take it under consideration. BSD attorney Bob Allen was not present for the presentation, and the school board took no action on Musgrove’s proposal.

The board voted to purchase a new scoreboard for King Field from Rainey Electronics at $77,631. The cost is within $2,000 of the scoreboard purchased in 2002. Superintendent Ben Cox said the company will work with the existing frame, which helped to save some money. Board chairman Stan Patrick said the new scoreboard will be LED rather than the current light bulbs. It will be easier to repair and the board will be in color. Cox said the new scoreboard would be able to run advertising on it.

“It’s a much slicker rig than we have right now,” Patrick said.

The board also approved a $260,000 renovation bid of the Brookhaven High School gym from Richard Womack and the purchase of two new school buses from Thomas Built Buses at $85,925.20 each.

The board also approved out-of-state travel to national conferences for three students. MarShanna Graham and Auriana Tucker, from the Brookhaven Technical Center’s health science, will attend the HOSA National Conference in Florida.

Flynn Phillips will travel to the Speech and Debate Grand National Tournament in Kansas. Phillips performed a piece at the school board meeting about the correlation between dialects and stereotypes.

The board will hold a public hearing for the BSD’s 2014-2015 budget on June 17 at 6 p.m.