The 21 Mississippi school districts suing lawmakers over a 2006 mandate to spend certain amounts on schools each year say their case is simple: The law is nonnegotiable.
The state says the school districts are wrong, and for equally simple reasons. Lawmakers from 11 years ago can’t tell today’s legislators what to do, and courts have no business wading into the subject.
Mississippi’s Supreme Court justices were confronted with those opposing positions in oral arguments Wednesday. At stake is the demand from the school districts to be paid back $236 million that the 21 districts say the state owes them for the budget years 2010 through 2015, representing their shares of how much the Mississippi Adequate Education Program formula was shorted.
But beyond that is another $1.4 billion that other school districts could seek if the plaintiffs won their case. Plus, the districts want judges to order the Legislature to never underfund the formula again. That would cost next year’s state budget more than $200 million above the $2.2 billion Mississippi will already spend.