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Results unclear for school funding amendment in Mississippi

By JEFF AMY

Associated Press

JACKSON — It was unclear late Tuesday whether voters would agree to amend Mississippi’s constitution to bolster public school funding, with official returns too close to call.

Early returns show more voters rejecting an amendment. Rejection would mean failure for Initiative 42, which would require the state to provide “an adequate and efficient system of public schools” and allow people to sue if funding falls short.

Republican leaders had advocated against any change at all. Lawmakers also proposed alternate amendment 42A, which requires “effective” schools, without stipulating a right to sue.

Even if voters end up approving a constitutional change on the first part of the ballot, there’s another step required. Under state law, either 42 or 42A must garner votes equal to at least 40 percent of all votes cast Tuesday to pass.

Backers of the initiative spent more money than had ever been spent on a referendum in Mississippi before, raising more than $3 million. Those contributions were channeled through out-of-state charities, but ultimately most of the money came from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, former Secretary of State Dick Molpus and former FedEx executive Jim Barksdale.