"The League of Women Voters is where hands-on work to safeguard democracy leads to civic improvement."
Each year, the League of Women Voters of Mississippi selects public policy priorities and advocates for these positions through an informed membership and a volunteer lobby corps. Action is also taken on long-held League positions or non-priority items when necessary or as time allows.
Position + The LWVMS supports the right of every citizen to vote. We believe that voting is a fundamental citizens' right that must be guaranteed. We believe in free, fair and accessible elections for every citizen. We oppose any action that may limit voter participation.
- ONLINE VOTER REGISTRATION + We support on line registration to reduce costs for already strapped state and local budgets and reduce the errors that come when officials have to re-enter information from handwritten forms.
- EARLY VOTING + We support early voting to help increase voter participation and convenience allowing those otherwise unable to make it to the polls on Election Day an opportunity to cast their ballot. Early voting should be available at multiple locations outside of traditional business hours, not only in the evening but also Saturday and Sunday.
- ABSENTEE VOTING + We oppose shortening the time for voting absentee, limiting the number of people one can take to register early, decreasing the number of precincts, and creating hurdles for groups to register voters.
- SAFEGUARDING ELECTIONS FOR CITIZENS + We are committed to safeguarding elections for all citizens, especially those who have difficulty voting, including the elderly, disabled, homeless, high school and college students, veterans and people actively serving in the military abroad, and people experiencing financial difficulty affecting their housing an and access to transportation.
- PERMANENT AND PORTABLE STATEWIDE VOTER REGISTRATION + We support making an individual's registration permanent and portable within the state. This means the voter takes the responsibility to properly register to vote and move within the state on line before the elections or at the polls on Election Day.
- IMPROVE POLLING PLACE MANAGEMENT- Our hard-working election officials and volunteers aren't getting the resources they need to make all our elections run smoothly. And sometimes the resources that are available + voting machines, ballots, voter registration lists, polling places and poll workers + are not allocated properly and fairly. This can result in poorly staffed and equipped polling places and unexpectedly long lines at particular precincts, often election, high new voter registration rates, or population shifts, problems develop. We need to increase the total resources that go toward making our election system work, but we also need to ensure that those resources are distributed fairly and equitably. States need standards that aren't just based on the old patterns but take into account all eligible voters. This would improve the experience for both voters and Election Day workers, as well as helping to reduce long lines and increase the efficient use of the resources we do have.
OPEN MEETING & OPEN RECORDS
Position + The League of Women Voters of Mississippi believes that government bodies must protect the citizens' right to know.
- Supports well-defined channels for citizen input of government.
- All meetings of public government bodies should be required to be open with the exception of certain carefully specified situations where executive session is allowed.
- Adequate public notice of all meetings must be provided.
- Give adequate notice to proposed actions and holidays.
Background - The act mandates all meetings of public bodies be open to the public, and though there are certain exceptions, the state Supreme Court has continuously held that all statutory exceptions must be construed in favor of openness.
The League is a member of The Mississippi Center for Freedom of Information and we support removing the County hospital exemption from the open meeting act.
MAEP FUNDING FOR K-12 FOR FY 16
Position + The League supports uniformity in student opportunity, including equity in spending and quality of education. We support full funding of Mississippi Adequate Education Program. (MAEP)
- Mississippi has only funded MAEP only twice since the law was passed 17 years ago. Over the last 6 years the cumulative shortfall is $1.5 billion.
- This year's state budget is 2.2 billion more than the FY 08 state budget.
- This year's appropriation for the MAEP, which includes the teacher pay raise, is $50 million less than the FY 08 MAEP appropriation.
- This year's total K-12 appropriation is 35 million less than the FY 08 total K-12 appropriation.
- The appropriations for most state agencies increased in this same period, some significant exceptions are K-12 education, the Governor's office, and some special funds agencies.
- The Legislature increased its own budget by 17%.
- Class sizes have risen significantly and schools have had to eliminate important intervention programs and courses.
- The number of children enrolled in the public schools increases each year and other expenses continually increase.
- Operating costs continue to escalate in school districts. Example, districts served by Mississippi Power Company will see utility costs will increase by some 25 percent in the next few years.
- State revenue has increased steadily for the last four years. Revenue are projected to increase over Fiscal Year 2014 levels by approximately 3% annually. (Rep. Cecil Brown)
- Mississippi is near the bottom among states in funding public education.
Background + MAEP is a formula designed by the state legislature in 1997, largely as an effort to avoid equity-funding law suits. The program provides the basic needs (adequate funding) for the K-12 schools. Senator Hob Bryan was the author and sponsor of the legislation. (MS code 37-151-7) The League has supported funding MAEP each year since its legislative passage.
The 60% Myth + Politicians often use the percent of the state budget that is dedicated to public schools as evidence of their support of K-12 education. You have probably heard them claim that education makes up over 60% of the total state budget. That is simply not true. While it is true that all of education + including universities and community colleges + make up about 60% of the General Fund portion of the state budget, the General Fund represents less than ½ of the State budget, exclusive of federal funds. Approximately 55% of state taxes and fees are diverted to special funds and are not considered a part of the General Fund appropriations. But this diverted revenue, like General Fund revenue, is made up of state taxes and fees paid by the people of Mississippi. It is simply diverted to specific state agencies rather than going into the general fund.
The truth is, when all appropriations of state taxes and fees are considered, K-12 education makes up about 23% of the state budget + a far cry from 60%. When federal funds are included, K-12 makes up only about 16.5% of the state budget. (MS Department of Education)
Supporting Groups + MS Department of Education, Parents for Public Education, NEA and MS Economic Council
- BETTER SCHOOLS * BETTER JOBS
On January 1, 2014 a newly formed group, Better Schools * Better Jobs, commissioned a poll which found that 70 percent of registered, voters polled said they did not believe the Mississippi Legislature would ever fulfill the constitutional mandate and fund public education as promised in the state constitution. The objective was to get a constitutional amendment to provide money for cash-strapped schools. The amendment will also authorize state courts to enforce that in litigation. The League of Women Voters supported this initiative by helping to secure signatures on petitions.
To accomplish this goal 107,000 signatures had to be gathered by October 1 for an amendment to be placed on the 2015 ballot for a vote. Nearly 122,000 signatures were certified by county clerks. The Secretary of State certified the signatures. The measure will appear on the November 4, 2015 ballot. Law makers, in their 2015 session, could propose an alternative version in which, both would be on the ballot. The League opposes an alternative version.
- The League of Women Voters of Mississippi has surveyed the MS Legislators asking if they will support the citizens' initiative seeking annual, adequate financial support for Mississippi's K-12 public education system. They were asked to answer the question Yes, No or Undecided. The deadline to respond was November 19. A personal call was made to each legislator who didn't return a response by mail.
COMMON CORE STANDARDS
Position + The League of Women Voters of Mississippi supports Common Core standards to ensure that all students, no matter where they live, are prepared for success in postsecondary education and the work force. Common standards help ensure that students are receiving a high quality education consistently, from school to school and state to state. Common Core will provide a greater opportunity to experiences and best practices within and across states that will improve our ability to best serve the needs of students.
There are some who want to discontinue the Common Core Standards and there have been entered legislation to do so which LWV opposes.
- Common Core Standards are designed to ensure that our students are mastering important concepts. The Annie E, Casey Foundation in 2014 reported 79% of fourth-graders in Mississippi are not proficient in reading as compared to 66% of fourth in the US. 79% of eighth graders in Mississippi are not proficient in math; 66 % of eighth graders in USA.
- U.S. military is being forced to turn away applicants because of a lack of preparation in math, science and other subjects. Each year, approximately 30% of high-school graduates who take the Armed Forces entrance exam fail the test.
- U.S. is falling behind international competitors in producing students ready for the 21st century jobs. According to the most recent Program for International Assessment, U.S. students rank 14th in the world in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.
Background - The League of Women Voters position on the Common Core Initiative statement was voted on in 2010 after a two year study of education.
Every few years, Mississippi revamps and updates its academic standards. In 2010, the state adopted the Common Core, which "saved the state time, money, and effort associated with crating our own standards. Most of the 152 public school districts already have introduced Common Core-aligned curriculum to the lower elementary schools and now will be rolling it out in junior high and high schools.
Position + The League of Women Voters of Mississippi opposes school vouchers.
- Vouchers are designed to divert taxpayer dollars from public schools to private schools.
- Public schools operate under the most stringent standards of government accountability and transparency: private schools are completely unaccountable to taxpayers for the public dollars that go into their coffers.
- Public schools guarantee a spot for all children in the district. No questions asked. Parents who apply for a voucher school can be accepted or rejected.
- If a voucher student is inconvenient, they can be kicked out.
- It's not the truly "School Choice" It's the school who get to choose.
- Vouchers have been shown to be ineffective in states that have tried them.
Background + LWVMS in 2014 opposed diverting funds to private or online schools with special needs services because participating nonpublic schools are not held accountable for the quality of education and services they provide to special needs students despite being paid for by tax payers funds equal to the MAEP base student cost plus the proportionate share of funds for categorical aid programs. The League does support programs for special need students in our public schools and continues support of improving these programs.
Position + League of Women Voters of Mississippi health policies that promote access to basic level of quality care at an affordable cost for all residents and strong cost-control mechanisms to ensure the efficient and economical delivery of care. LWV of MS supports The Affordable Health Care Act including Medicaid expansion.
- Medicaid expansion would bring $8.7 billion to Mississippi providing $579 million and provide 217,111uninsured working poor health coverage.
- Mississippi hospitals will lose millions of dollars in revenue by a huge influx of indigent emergency care patients.
- Mississippi tax payers would spend $579 million between 2014 and 2010, but draw more than $1.4 billion in tax revenues, and generate upwards of $14 billion in total new economic activity. It would also create 20,000 new jobs and provide an $848 million increase in net state and local tax revenues. (Report authored by David Becker and Michael Morrissey researchers at University of Alabama at Birmingham)
Background + Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government pay sates 100 percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid for the years 2014-2017, then gradually reducing that share to 90 percent starting in 2020. A U.S Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act in July 2012 made the expansion optional for states.
The Medicaid expansion was defeated in the 2012 session by Governor Phil Bryant and the Republican leadership citing uncertainty of how the state would pay its increased share toward the end of the decade.
During the legislative session, LWVMS may choose to work on additional issues that arise.
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