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More Mississippi School Districts Join Funding Lawsuit

The number of school districts asking the state of Mississippi to adequately fund the schools under a state law has grown to 19.

The Daily Journal now reports that the Green County, Humphreys County, Leland, North Bolivar and West Bolivar school districts have joined the14 other school districts that sued the state last month, alleging that the state owes them $115 million in funds under the Mississippi Adequate Education Program—or MAEP—since the 2010 fiscal year.

According to the Daily Journal, the state has only twice fully funded the program, which helps poorer school districts with basics, such as staff salaries and building maintenance. Since 2010, the total owed to all districts that should have received the monetary aid amounts to about $1.5 billion, the paper reported last month.

With the new school districts added, the group behind the lawsuit, the MAEP Legal Group, now says the amount owed to those participating in the legal action is $134 million.

The lawsuit is backed by former Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, who as lieutenant governor helped the MAEP legislation get through the legislature in 1997 after a veto by the late Gov. Kirk Fordice, a Republican.

Musgrove served as governor from 2000 to 2004.

There are dueling measures on how to ensure a permanent, reliable revenue source for the schools. One, backed by Musgrove, supports legal action to fully fund MAEP. The other side favors a constitutional amendment to guarantee the funding.

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